HAVING hit the bar at Cheltenham this week with Fastorslow and An Epic Song, trainer Martin Brassil, jockey J.J. Slevin and owner Sean Mulryan gained some compensation at Down Royal yesterday when Longhouse Poet landed the featured Bluegrass Stamm 30 Chase.
The 2022 Thyestes Chase winner will now return to Aintree for the Grand National in which he finished a very respectable sixth last year.
Longhouse Poet went off the 7/4 favourite for Friday’s seven-runner field and won by a length and a quarter from last year’s winner Roi Mage who put in a brave effort and who also holds a Grand National entry.
“He needed to do that,” Brassil said. “J.J. had a bit of a mishap with him in Fairyhouse in the Bobbyjo, so we wanted to get them to gel a bit more. It would be (important) when you are going around there (Aintree).
“He jumped great and handled the ground and it was lovely to see. You would never know how much you have left with him as he just only does enough. When something comes to him, he stretches them a little bit again.”
Looking back at last year’s National, Brassil commented: “He probably over-raced himself, he was very fresh on the day.
“That’s why I wanted to get a race closer to the National into him, so he wouldn’t be too buzzed up. Darragh (O’Keeffe) gave him a great ride (in the Grand National), he had a fantastic round of jumping and all roads lead back there now.”
Reflecting on the week at Cheltenham, Brassil added: “A little bit frustrating but it would have been frustrating if we were watching them trailing in with half the field behind him.
“They ran great races and there were no hard luck stories. They got great rides and finished the races out well.”
TRAINER David Christie was once again out of luck at Cheltenham yesterday but he did land the Bluegrass Mare Prepare Hunters Chase here with hot favourite Ultimate Optimist.
Sent off the 6/5 favourite, the lightly-raced seven-year-old jumped well to win by a comfortable six lengths under Alex Harvey, scoring by six lengths from The Flier Begley and Lord Schnitzel.
Harvey said: “We thought the trip today [two and a half miles] might be a little bit on the short side for him but, look, he has got quite a high cruising speed and we went a nice, even gallop. I was able to fill him up good and early.
“When he hits top speed, he stays at it and he really galloped them into the ground there. He is still a big, raw horse - that is only his seventh run. I got in under the second last and the last, and for a horse to pick up again after being taken back shows a bit of class. He is a horse improving and he’ll be a name to look out for in the future.”
A couple of hours after the Gold Cup, trainer Willie Mullins was on the mark at Down Royal too, winning the Bluegrass Horse Feeds Mares INH Flat Race with newcomer Cuta Des As. The mare had won a point-to-point and was sent off the 4/6 favourite here for amateur rider Pat Taaffe.
The daughter of It’s Gino was the last to come off the bridle and kicked on two furlongs out to win by 13 lengths.
A WEEK after saddling Grange Walk to win a Grade B chase at Gowran Park, Templemore trainer John Ryan was on the mark again here with Western Commander in the Bluegrasshorsefeed.com Maiden Hurdle which kicked off the card.
The 12/1 shot hit the front at the second last before idling under Liam Quinlan. This allowed Flamborough to reel in the leader and mount a challenge but the five-year-old Western Commander held on well to win by half a length.
Ryan said: “He looked like a real bumper horse and, in fairness, I have to thank Fethard Equine Hospital as they did a little palate job on him. They did a great job on him. He was always a classy horse.
“Hunt Ball is a brother to his dam (Western Rose), so he is a well-bred horse. He could be a nice little novice hurdler now, he’s a novice until next November anyway at least. We’ll have a bit of fun with this lad. He would (prefer going the other way around), most of the Kerry tracks are left-handed!”
Another Tipperary trainer, Julie Cashin from Killenaule, was on the mark with Thecornerhouse, who followed up her recent Thurles success with victory in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, again under Ewan Dwan.
After the six-year-old daughter of Shirocco had won by almost five lengths, Dwan said of the 100/30 favourite: “She’s a good filly and she tries hard and she is progressive. The lads have a great job done with her. She will probably go on any ground. The 7lb rise didn’t stop her there anyway, so it is grand.”
EASTER is not far away and Dermot McLoughlin’s yard seems to be hitting form at just the right time. The Ratoath man sent out Ottoman Style to win the Powered By Bluegrass Novice Handicap Hurdle under Conor Maxwell following a ding-dong battle with Monbeg Park.
Maxwell said: “He jumped for fun and travelled. When I asked him, he lengthened up. I’d say he is still learning, he doesn’t have a lot of runs close together or a lot of handicap runs together but he is doing things right.
“You would hope there is a bit more improvement but sure time will tell. I think a bit of nicer ground the whole way around would suit him better. Today I thought with deeper ground I would hold onto him a bit longer. I stayed out wide because it was a little bit more dead. He stays two and a half really well.”
Arthur Moore’s Carraig Sam went off a strong 6/4 favourite for the Bluegrass Rated Novice Chase but he was well beaten once again, leaving The Greek and Chameron to battle it out in front.
It was the Gordon Elliott-trained The Greek who prevailed under a strong ride from Denis O’Regan. Despite hanging right after the last, The Greek held on for a length and a quarter victory over Chameron.
Assistant trainer Ian Amond said: “Denis let him stride on and he got to do his own thing a bit, so he was able to do what he wanted in front. He stayed at it well and will probably come on for it as he hadn’t run in a few months.
“His owners are all from up around here, I think most of them are in Cheltenham but they had a few stand-ins for today. It’s a pity they are not here, but I am sure they got a good kick out of it over there. He’ll be kept going now, he’s had a break. He could end up in Fairyhouse or Punchestown or somewhere like that.”