Neil O’Donnell

With the Cheltenham festival due to get under way on March 15th, Henry de Bromhead kept his many supporters happy at Navan on Tuesday of last week – February 22nd – by saddling Brampton Belle to win the BetVictor Apple’s Jade Mares’ Novice Hurdle.

Brampton Belle, who sports the same Honeysuckle colours of Kenny Alexander,supplemented her Tramore maiden hurdle success in early December by making her way to the front with Rachael Blackmore inside the final furlong and she then held on valiantly to beat the vastly more-experienced favourite Lunar Display by a half-length in this listed contest. The indications are that confirmed soft ground specialist Brampton Belle will now be prepared for a tilt at the Grade 3 Shannon Spray Mares’ Novice Hurdle over two miles six furlongs at Limerick on Match 13th.

Captain Guinness and Rachael Blackmore on the way to winning the Grade 3 BetVictor Chase at Navan on Sunday.

Tallow-based handler Sean Aherne likewise figured amongst the winners at the Proudstown Park venue as he struck with former point-to-pointer Ask And Answer in the first division of the Meath Farm Machinery Handicap Hurdle.

Ask And Answer, representing his hander’s long-standing patron Eoin Barry, stepped up from his most recent seventh-placed effort at Punchestown on February by making virtually all the running for Sean O’Keeffe to edge out Nathaniel’s Dream by the minimum margin of a nose. The nine-year-old Ask And Answer was recording his third racecourse success and the son of Ask has now most meritoriously amassed almost €30, 000 in prize money earnings.

Willie Mullins rarely leaves this venue empty-handed and the Clousutton maestro sent out Madmansgame to win the closing Paddy Flood Memorial (Pro/Am) Flat Race in the hands of his son Patrick. The odds-on shot Madmansgame, having won a Boulta maiden point-to-point on debut in December when under the care of Donnchadh Doyle, made all the running to beat main market-rival Landrake by three parts of a length and the son of Blue Bresil is now likely to take his chance in the Grade 1 Cheltenham festival bumper on March 16th.

It was then onto Punchestown on Wednesday and Pat Flynn sent out Walnut Beach to win the Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle in the hands of Shane Fitzgerald.

The five-year-old Walnut Beach atoned for his second-placed effort in a Thurles maiden hurdle in November by making progress from two out to lead early on the run-in en-route to defeating Haxo by two and three quarter lengths. It’s probable that the Walnut Beach, a son of Free Eagle, should be well up to winning again over the coming weeks.

Robert Widger was yet another Co Waterford-based handler to get on the scoresheet at Punchestown as he sent out his wife Paula’s Indie Belle to collect the second division of the Watch Racing TV In Stunning HD Handicap Hurdle.

Indie Belle vindicated the promise of her most recent fourth-placed effort at Tramore on New Year’s Day by benefiting from the final flight exit of The Dreams Alive to dismiss Wild Hunt by three and a quarter lengths under Darragh O’Keeffe.

At Thurles on Thursday, the excellent run of Co Waterord-based horses was continued as Tallow-based owner/trainer John Morrison sent out Danegeld to win the Connolly’s Red Mills Ladies Handicap Hurdle over two miles.

Rochelle Murphy was entrusted with the mount aboard Danegeld and, having been nibbled at in the market from 25/1 into 14/1, the son of Danehill Dancer returned to the form that saw him finish second a Limerick on his penultimate foray on February 1st by making his way to the front after two out to dispense with Tohellortoconnacht by 10 lengths.

Crossabeg-based handler Liz Doyle was on the mark with newcomer Mitiva in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ INH Flat Race. The four-year-old newcomer Mitiva arrived from mid-division with Jody Townend to hit the front over a furlong out to beat favourite Brookline by two and a half lengths. It’s possible that Mitiva, a French-bred daughter of Motivator, could now be sold.

Connections of Captain Guinness at the presentation at Naas.

There was racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday and Donagh Meyler certainly kept his supporters happy by recording a two-timer, the Kilmacow native opening his account aboard the Arthur Moore-trained Carrig Sam in the Tommy Carberry Handicap Hurdle.

Carrig Sam supplemented his success in a maiden hurdle at this same venue on New Year’s Day by justifying strong market support from 9/1 into 3/1 favourite by making virtually all the running to thwart Ten Ten by one and a half lengths. Carrig Sam, who won this race off a mark of 126, is now likely to return to Fairyhouse for a two mile six furlong hurdle race over Easter whilst the son of Shantou is likely to be despatched over fences next season.

Meyler signed off aboard the Karl Thornton-trained Where’s Frankie in the Easter Festival 16 – 18 April Handicap Hurdle. Where’s Frankie, who was likewise sent off favourite, forged to the front at the second last to return with one and a quarter lengths to spare over Grey Habit.

At Navan on Sunday, Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore combined to record a two-timer with the pair instigating their brace courtesy of Captain Guinness in the opening Grade 3 BetVictor Chase over two miles.

The 160-rated Captain Guinness, who was only beaten a shade under six lengths into third spot by Greaneteen in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December, stormed to the front at the second last to eclipse main market-rival Blackbow by two and three quarter lengths. Captain Guinness, representing Declan Landy, could now be seen in action at the Aintree meeting in early April.

Gabbys Cross completed the de Bromhead/Blackmore double by springing a 22/1 surprise in the BetVictor Novice Handicap Chase.

Gabbys Cross overcame a slight error at the final fence by forging clear in the closing stages to contain Ballyshannon Rose by four lengths in the familiar Roger Brookhouse silks. It’s possible that the former point-to-pointer Gabbys Cross may now be aimed at a two mile five furlong handicap chase at the Punchestown festival at the end of the season.

Gabby’s Cross and Rachael Blackmore sprang a 22/1 surprise to win the Novice Handicap Chase at Naas opn Sunday.