The Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National, at €250,000 the most valuable chase staged annually in this country, occupied centre stage at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. A field of 23 went to post for the coveted three mile five furlong contest and it yielded a shock winner in the form of ‘Mouse’ Morris’s 33/1 shot, Hear The Echo.
Partnered by Morris’ stable jockey Paddy Flood, former point-to-pointer Hear The Echo led from four out to defeat 6/1 joint-favourite Royal County Star by a comprehensive 12 lengths in the colours of RyanAir supremo Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud.
Elsewhere on the card, former dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Conor O’Dwyer enjoyed a near fairytale end to his 26-year raceriding career by steering Davy Fitzgerald’s stable star Mister Top Notch to a ridiculously easy success in the Betchronicle On Course Hurdle.
Pandorama made all the running on his first start for the Noel Meade stable in the Gigginstown House Stud Point-To-Point Championship Flat Race, ultimately defeating King’s Forest by some 22 lengths. Pandorama incidentally won a Dungarvan maiden point-to-point for former owner/trainer, Tramore-born veterinary surgeon John Halley in late January.
At Cork’s Easter Monday fixture, Butlerstown trainer Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing America indicated that he will be winning over fences before too long by finishing an excellent second to The Bosses Nephew in the Dromahane (Q.R.) Beginners Chase over two and a half miles.
Waterford owner in Dubai
On Saturday, popular Co Waterford owner Michael Ryan will be in Dubai to cheer on his star filly Finsceal Beo in the Dubai Duty Free over nine furlongs at Nad Al Sheba.
Finsceal Beo of course won the British and Irish 1000 Guineas last year and the daughter of Mr Greeley is bound to be well-prepared for her overseas assignment by trainer Jim Bolger. She’s currently available at 16/1 and is certainly worthy of each-way support whilst she should have most to fear from Literato.
The Channel 4 cameras will be screening a near top-class all-weather card from Kempton on Saturday with the intercasino.co.uk Magnolia Stakes, a listed race over 10 furlongs, as featured event.
Championship Point experienced a largely unfruitful stint at the recent Dubai Carnival, but Mick Channon’s charge is taken to make a return to victorious ways here at the expense of Clive Brittain’s Kandidate here.
Players Please meanwhile should oblige at the first time of asking this season for trainer Mark Johnston in the intercasino.co.uk Roseberry Stakes whilst Formation and Upper Class are a likely pair in the intercasino.co.uk Handicap. Kashimin can continue the excellent run of north of England handler Alan Swinbank by proving marginally superior to Chartist in the Play Blackjack At intercasino.co.uk Handicap over six furlongs.
At Newbury, Back On Line should continue on her merry way by landing the ultra-prestigious EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares Only Novices’ Chase Final.
The Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old has improved out of all recognition in recent times winning two out her four most recent starts and she’s selected to account for Guillaume Macaire’s Gallic challenger Souri Des Champs.
Richard Rowe’s Burren Legend should attain due reward for his consistency by showing a clean pair of heels to Turthen in the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase whilst the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Castlecrossings should have most to fear from Overbranch in the EBF Byrne Bros Mares Only “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Final.
Meanwhile, there’s also a busy domestic programme over the weekend with racing at Navan on Saturday whilst enthusiasts can choose between The Curragh and Downpatrick on Sunday.
At Navan, Wheresben is likely to give a positive account of himself in the Grade 3 An Uaimh Chase. The Seamus Fahey-trained Whereben posted arguably a career best performance when beating a 132-rated opponent in Freds Benefit by 24 lengths in a two and a half mile novice chase at Navan on March 9th. That display clearly illustrates that Wheresben is on an upward curve and the nine-year-old is recommended to possess too many aces for Arteea.
The Halfway Bar should regain the winning thread in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Handicap Chase Final.
This Robert Tyner-trained gelding ran better than his eventual finishing position of fifth would indicate behind Pomme Tiepy in a three mile novice chase at this same Proudstown Park venue in mid-February. The Halfway Bar, ultimately beaten a little over 12 lengths on that occasion, looks likely to upstage Arbor Supreme here.
Moving On, a recent winner over flights at Clonmel, should have most to fear from Rebel Run in the Kells Handicap Hurdle whilst Themoonandsixpence can recoup previous losses by shrugging aside the attentions of Paul Kristian in the Athboy (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
The flat season really moves up a gear on Sunday as The Curragh stage their opening fixture of the year. It’s the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud European Breeders Fund Park Express Stakes that occupies centre stage and it would be folly to look past Lush Lashes in this one-mile contest.
Lush Lashes, trained by Jim Bolger who also of course handled former Irish Champion Stakes heroine Park Express, stamped herself as a filly with genuine Classic aspirations by making a victorious career debut in the Parknasilla Hotel Goffs Fillies Million at The Curragh last September. If she can handle the likely testing ground conditions, then Lush Lashes can pick up where she left off last autumn by disposing of confirmed mud-lark Danehill Music.
Siege Of Ennis appears quite leniently treated off a mark of 76 in the Ladbrokes.com Irish Lincolnshire Handicap. Siege Of Ennis, trained by Edward Harty, did after all more than acquit himself by finishing sixth on his most recent start in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival earlier this month. The likelihood is that Siege Of Ennis will have most to fear from last season’s Tote Galway Mile winner Incline.
Halfway To Heaven could provide Aidan O’Brien with an initial winner of the season by obliging from Bunsen Burner in the Ladbrokes 271 Shops Madrid Handicap whilst the grey Snaefell and Dandy Nicholls’ British challenger Strike Up The Band are a likely pair in the Ladbrokes 1800 777 888 Handicap.
At Downpatrick’s jumps fixture, Clew Bay Cove looks the part in the Toals Pay Double Result Hurdle. Colm Murphy’s horse has won two out of his four recent outings and last time, he wasn’t found wanting when winning a €50,000 Grade B chase at Gowran on March 6th. Also a competent hurdler, Clew Bay Cove is recommended to dismiss Killyglen.
Whilst short on experience, the Michael Cunningham-trained Ifyoucouldseemenow can supplement her mares’ maiden victory at the Horse And Jockey point-to-point meeting earlier this month by denying Midnight Run in the Toals Frank Magee Memorial Maiden Hunters Chase. The ultra-consistent Captain Conflict can conclude the session on a profitable note for punters by excelling from Big Boots in the Toals Look Forward to Seeing You at the Next Meeting 9th & 10th May (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.