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Alderwood completes Festival treble

Article Date: 24-April-2012

Alderwood (5/2) battled hard under A.P. McCoy to win the first Grade 1 contest at the 2012 Punchestown Festival to fight off Trifolium and take the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle by half a length.

The Tom Mullins-trained eight-year-old, carrying J P McManus’s colours, was completing a three-timer having won a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Fairyhouse and the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on his last two starts.

“I thought we would have to settle for third place turning for home but he fought it out after the last,” said Mullins. “I did give him a break after September so that we could come back for these festivals. The main target was Cheltenham and that came off, so what has happened since is out of this world. To win a Grade 1 anywhere is special, but particularly at Punchestown.

“I haven’t done much with him since Fairyhouse, he did a small breeze five days ago, but that’s it. I don’t think this victory changes our plans - he will still go chasing next year. There are plenty of good horses with J P (McManus) so there are horses for everything. I will talk to Frank (Berry) again, but everyone who rides Alderwood says he will make a lovely chaser so we will see where the summer takes us.”

Owner J P McManus added: “Alderwood is a tough horse. It looked like he had it all to do when Davy (Russell) went past him on Trifolium, but he has done it well and is a good sort. He has a wonderful constitution and in fairness to Tom Mullins, he had him looking wonderful today. I thought we were in trouble turning in, but on the run to the last I was hopeful as Alderwood was responding and Davy was hard at work so anything could happen. What more do I need to say about A P McCoy, he is one in a million.”

McCoy added: “I think that he was improving for winning. I rode him over two and a half miles at Leopardstown, when I just felt that he was a bit keen and he might be better off in a strongly-run two-mile race. Luckily, myself and Tom suggested the County Hurdle rather than the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and it worked out. I actually genuinely think that the horse has got confidence from winning. I think that he has improved mentally for winning as much as physically. As crazy is it sounds, I think that he knows that he has won.

“I am not saying that he is a really good horse yet but all good horses seem to jump and go in any ground. This horse seems to be the same - he loves jumping, which makes a jockey’s job very easy, and he keeps responding for you. He has a great will to win and keeps trying to please you. I keep saying that horses are like people - some of them want to please you more than others.

“They went a nice gallop and I gradually quickened on my horse. Davy was able to quicken a bit better than me but I knew that my lad would stay the trip out well and he did that. My lad may have outstayed anything, whatever way the race panned out.  When I rode him at Leopardstown before Cheltenham, I dropped him in and he was a bit keen. That’s why I thought that the County Hurdle would suit him because I thought that he would travel off a really strong gallop over two miles. For a horse to win the County Hurdle, they normally have to stay two and half miles, so he must stay fairly well.”

HOBBSON SCORESHEET FOR BRITAIN

Punchestown has been a happy hunting ground for trainer Philip Hobbs and he pulled off a great training performance when returning Snap Tie (16/1) from a 921-day break to win the Boylesports.com Official Betting Partner to the Irish Soccer Team Handicap Hurdle under top-weight of 11st 9lb.

“It’s amazing after two and a half years to come back and do that,” said Hobbs. “Especially at the age of 10 to carry top weight and on ground we thought he didn’t like. When he won his novice chase at Cheltenham a couple of years ago, he had a suspensory problem then he had a recurrence just over a year ago so had to step back again. He had a hiccup and had to miss Cheltenham this year and after that the plan was to come here. He won his only start over fences so we couldn’t go for novice chases and I’d like to run him again somewhere, maybe in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock or I think there is a race over two and a half miles at Aintree in May.”

Winning jockey Richard Johnson added: “It’s a massive credit to Philip Hobbs and the yard to get this horse back. He was going to run in the County Hurdle last year before going wrong the week before and he has been so patient with him. The plan was the County Hurdle this year, but it has ended up being here instead.

“It’s fantastic to get a horse like Snap Tie back and to win at a big festival, it’s just a brilliant performance.

“The race panned out well, he was seventh in a Champion Hurdle and placed in a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, so I was able to travel through the race. He is a horse with a lot of ability and hopefully he still retains most of it. The handicapper has given him a chance after such a long time off which is great.

“The only worry during the race was approaching the first down the back where a horse jumped across him and gave him quite a hard bump which nearly knocked him over. But other than that he has jumped, travelled and taken me to the front turning in, but one thing I knew he would do is stay.

“The ground is definitely heavy in places, but is mainly soft.”

Local trainer Peter Maher saddled Big Shu (8/1) to win the opening Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup but he will be keeping the celebrations to a minimum tonight.

“I’m coming out of retirement to ride in the farmers’ race (the KFM Hunters Chase for the Bishopcourt Cup) on Friday on a horse I got from Arthur Moore (Havagoodsip) so I won’t be celebrating too much,” said Maher.

“There’s no feeling like winning here and I’ve got Barry Cash to thank for schooling this horse, a lot of it is down to him.”

Get all the Punchestown news and photographs in The Irish Field on Saturday. Online from 10.30pm Friday


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