The main meeting of the year at Clonmel took place on Thursday of last week with the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase occupying centre stage at the Powerstown Park venue. Some five runners went to post for the coveted two and a half mile contest which came complete with a first prize of €30, 875. It was Road To Riches that was sent off favourite and the market proved absolutely spot-on as the Noel Meade-trained eight-year-old made all in the hands of owners Gigginstown House Stud’s retained jockey Bryan Cooper.
Road To Riches, who finished an excellent third to Coneygree in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, was tracked by outsider First Lieutenant until the latter weakened before the second last. Bright New Dawn was soon in hot pursuit except that he could make no impression on the eventual winner from the penultimate obstacle with six lengths ultimately separating the pair.
Meade was understandably elated with the performance of the 165-rated Road To Riches, a former point-to-pointer incidentally, and it’s possible that the son of Gamut could now contest the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period with the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26th another possible target.
Donagh Meyler continues to make major waves and the seven lb claimer from Kilmacow combined with the absent Eoin Doyle to collect the Prior Park Service Station Clonmel Handicap Chase with Indian Fairy.
The seven-year-old mare Indian Fairy was left in front at the third last and the daughter of Indian Danehill made the rest of the running to slam favourite Holeinthewall Bar by ten lengths. Indian Fairy won this race off a mark of 113 and, whilst a rise in rating is now probable, she seems to relish winter ground and further success is therefore probable over the coming weeks and months.
Mooncoin-based handler Doyle also had a connection with the Gordon Doyle-trained Jetstream Jack who provided Ruby Walsh with the opening leg of a three-timer by gamely justifying odd-on favouritism in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle. This is so as Jetstream Jack started off his career with Doyle by winning an Affane maiden point-to-point in November of last year prior to being purchased by his present connections.
Walsh’s remaining two winners were both supplied by Willie Mullins with the pair initially joining forces to land the afternoon’s main supporting event, the Grade 3 EBF T.A. Morris Memorial Mares’ Chase with Vroum Vroum Mag. The 1/4 shot Vroum Vroum Mag took up the running clearly travelling bet two out and she eased clear to beat Mis Dinamic by an unextended seven and a half lengths.
The formidable Mullins/Walsh combination also took the Clonmel Oil Slan Abhaile Hurdle with Noble Inn, the odds-on shot taking over at the second last to readily dismiss Hostile Fire by six lengths.
The first session of the two-day weekend meeting at Punchestown took place on Saturday and renowned greyhound trainer Paul Hennessy from Rathvawn outside Gowran sent out his homebred filly Thywillbedone to spring a 14/1 surprise in the opening Ballymore GAA Christmas Fair & Family Fun Day 3-Y-O Hurdle. The hooded Thywillbedone made virtually all the running and, although far from clever at the final flight, she stayed on dourly to repel Newberry New by a half-length in the hands of Danny Mullins.
Indeed, the aforementioned Mullins went on to complete a double for he teamed up with his uncle Willie Mullins to collect the Grabel Mares’ Hurdle, a listed race over two and a quarter miles, with Whiteout. The four-year-old Whiteout struck the front before the final flight to lead home a handler Mullins one-two-three by comfortably beating Valyssa Monterg and Gitane Du Berlais to the tune of three and three quarter lengths and two and three quarter lengths.
Willie Mullins likewise departed with two winners for he then saddled Outlander to win the Gain Supporting Laois GAA Beginners Chase. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned Outlander led before the second last fence to thwart favourite Free Expression by one and half lengths, the pair returning 14 lengths clear of the third-placed Walk To Freedom. It’s probable that Outlander will now contest the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse later this month.
On Sunday, all eyes were focused on the re-appearance of Willie Mullins’ reigning champion hurdler Faugheen in the Grade 1 Stan James.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. However, the son of Germany had to play second fiddle to his stable companion Nichols Canyon. The Andrea and Graham Wylie-owned Nichols Canyon made all the running to provide his trainer’s talented nephew David Mullins with an initial Grade 1 success. Faugheen still held every chance on the flat, having jumped somewhat big at the final hurdle, but he couldn’t cope with the British-bred in the closing stages with a half-length separating the pair at the line. It’s possible that Nichols Canyon, a four-time Grade 1 winner last term, will have this season’s Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival as his ultimate objective.
Henry de Bromhead has a cracking prospect on his hands in the form of Sizing John as the six-year-old had little difficulty in justifying odds-on favouritism in the Grade 2 Ryans Cleaners Craddockstown Novice Chase over two miles. Sizing John, sporting the familiar Sizing Europe colours of Ann & Alan Potts Partnership, led from after six out with Johnny Burke’s mount duly defeating main market-rival Lord Scoundrel by eight lengts. Sizing John, a former Grade 1 winner over hurdles, will now be aimed at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and he just could take very high order amongst our novice chasers this season.
Windgap-based handler Garrett Power has experienced a terrific time of late and he struck with Steel Wave in the Flynn & Lynch Life Pensions Handicap Hurdle, the market leader surviving an anxious moment at the final flight to see off Back Before Dawn by a length in the hands of Mark Enright.