Unfortunately, there was no joy for Co Waterford in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday afternoon as the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Europe trailed home a well-beaten 14th in the extended two-mile event with jockey Andrew McNamara.
This does not adequately portray the whole story for Sizing Europe, the heavily-backed 2/1 favourite, seemed to be travelling ominously well from the third last and indeed, he challenged for the lead at the penultimate flight.
Sizing Europe however was beaten in quite literally a matter of strides from two out and when McNamara resorted to the whip, it was crystal clear that the six-year-old was running on empty.
McNamara sensibly eased Sizing Europe on the approach to the final flight with the Pistolet Bleu-sired gelding eventually coming home in his own time as Alan King’s Katchit led home a British one-two-three under ‘Choc’ Thornton.
For the affable de De Bromhead in particular, it must have been a truly miserable afternoon. But, Sizing Europe remains one of the best hurdlers in training and hopefully, he will bounce back to winning ways in the near future.
Jockey Thornton earlier ensured that the Irish experienced their almost customary ‘rip-roaring’ start to the afternoon as he steered the Edward Harty-trained Captain Cee Bee to a popular 17/2 success in the opening Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Youghal jockey Denis O’Regan attained a cherished ambition by riding his initial (Cheltenham) festival winner aboard Tidal Bay in the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase. Tidal Bay, trained by Howard Johnson for Andrea and Graham Wylie, drew clear from the second last to beat the mare Kruguyrova by an unchallenged 13 lengths.
It was another memorable afternoon for the Carberry clan as former champion jockey Paul teamed up with Emma Lavelle to win the closing Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with Crack Away Jack. Meanwhile, Paul’s younger sister Nina Carberry partnered her third festival winner aboard Enda Bolger’s French-bred Garde Champetre in the BGC Cross Country Handicap Chase.
On Saturday, the British racing circuit returns to normal with televised action from both Utttoxoter and Wetherby. At Uttoxoter, it’s the John Smith’s Midlands Grand National that occupies centre stage and Crystal d’Ainay is likely to close in this extended four mile one furlong contest.
Crystal d’Ainay has won two out of his four most recent starts for the in-form Alan King and the nine-year-old looks likely to possess too many aces for Naunton Brook.
Mous Of Men appears quite well-treated with just 10-12 in the John smith’s St. Georges Club Stafford Handicap Hurdle and Henrietta Knight’s representative looks likely to dispose of Iroquois Warrior here.
The Channel 4 cameras will be screening just the opening totescoop6 Handicap Chase live from Wetherby and this £14,000 contest looks set to be dominated by Canada Street and Silver Sedge with narrow preference for the former.
Meanwhile, there’s a meeting at Limerick on both Saturday and Sunday. Enthusiasts additionally can also choose between Navan’s fixture on the Sabbath.
At Limerick on Saturday, it could pay to side with Accorry More in the Vitners Raceday April 15th Handicap Hurdle. This Gerry O’Neill-trained eight-year-old easily won a most competitive maiden point-to-point at Aghabullogue in mid-January. It’s no surprise to see that the 88-rated Accorry More is now returning to the racetrack proper and he’s likely to return to the coveted number one slot at the expense of Caher Lass.
Let Yourself Go stands out in the St Patrick’s Day (C & G) Maiden Hurdle. This Adrian Maguire-trained gelding made a pleasing start to his park career by landing a Cork bumper in mid-December. Let Yourself Go then finished a creditable second in a 30-runner two-mile maiden hurdle at Navan on March 1st. The step up in trip of three furlongs is unlikely to inconvenience Let Yourself Go and he can regain the winning thread here by excelling from Like A Duke.
Maguire could even depart with two winners as his Sea Beauty has excellent prospects in the Greenmount Racing Club Mares Maiden Hurdle, an event that’s also likely to concern Rosmerta whilst trainer Thomas O’Leary can continue his present purple patch by saddling recent Clonmel bumper winner Grancore Girl to score from Sherchanceit in the Rockview (Q.R.) Mares INH Flat Race.
On Sunday, the featured race at the popular Greenmount venue is the Grade 3 Bank Of Ireland European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Chase.
Sheebadiva is bound to give a positive account of herself in this two mile six furlong contest. This Sean Aherne-trained daughter of Norwich returned to winning ways on her most recent start when winning a two and a half mile handicap chase at Clonmel by a length and a quarter from The Bosses Nephew. Sheebadiva was duly raised nine lbs for that display to a new mark of 113 and she’s taken to continue on her merry way by triumphing from Its A Ladys Deal.
Forgivememaria looks the part in the Dawn Omega Milk European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle. This Blueprint-sired mare caused a 25/1 surprise by winning a good-class novice hurdle at Clonmel in early-February. Clearly progressing, Forgivememaria should have most to fear from Dani California.
Nine O can provide the locals with plenty of cheer by triumphing for the Askeaton stable of Paddy Neville in the Charleville Cheese Handicap Chase whilst Paul Cashman’s Jessies Dream can vindicate the promise of his fourth-placed effort in a Punchestown bumper last month by showing a clean pair of heels to Judge Roy Bean in the Bank Of Ireland (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
At Navan, it could pay to side with Indifference Curve in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Hurdle.
This Margaret O’Sullivan-trained gelding gained his ultimate reward by winning a two mile six furlong Thurles maiden hurdle with Andrew McNamara on February 14th and the French-bred son of Bob Back ran better than his eventual fifth-placed finishing position would indicate when he came fifth behind Cooldine on a return visit to the north Co Tipperary track for a listed hurdle race earlier this month. It’s fair to say that this event reflects a step down in class with nothing of the calibre of Cooldine in opposition and Indifference Curve is taken to oblige from Scavenger.
Kasimali can record his third straight success in the Slane Handicap Hurdle.
Kasimali never even remotely came out of second gear when beating the much-improved Here Comes Sally by an unextended two and a half lengths in a two mile six furlong handicap hurdle at Limerick over the Christmas period. Kasimali was ultimately raised a whopping 17 lbs for that success to a new mark of 111 and the HH Aga Khan-bred can continue his rate of improvement by once again proving superior to Here Comes Sally.
Arthur Moore’s The Thirsty Brickey can make his first start over fences a winning one by disposing of Bronx Girl in the Irish Day At Navan Racecourse Beginners Chase and He’s On His Way looks set to eclipse The Halfway Bar in the Irish Stallions Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Handicap Chase.