SCARLET And Dove rounded off a successful festive period for Joseph O’Brien when taking the Grade 2 John & Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase in fine style at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.
The Carriganog trainer has a streamlined National Hunt team compared to his powerful flat string but this was a fifth winner over a week which also included graded race success for both Home By The Lee and Comfort Zone as well as a valuable handicap win with San Salvador.
Scarlet And Dove (6/4 favourite) and chief market rival Dolcita were separated by the width of the track approaching the final fence and it was the daughter of Jeremy that touched down in front on the stands’ side.
Bryan Cooper’s mount soon settled the issue coming home strongly for a four-and-three-quarter-length victory. Ballyshannon Rose set the pace until two out but could find no extra when headed finishing all of 48 lengths back in third.
O’Brien said: “She is always a difficult filly to get fit and all her career she has improved from her first run of the year. I was impressed. They are two good mares and they sprinted up the straight and left behind a good mare.”
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned mare was beaten less than a length behind Elimay in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase last year and that Cheltenham Festival target is very much in focus again.
“She will run somewhere between now and Cheltenham. She ran well there last year and there is no reason why she wouldn’t do it again this year,” said O’Brien.
Willie Mullins’ feast of winners over the Christmas period continued with another two very impressive victories for James Du Berlais and Indiana Dream.
James Du Berlais, last seen finishing second to Klassical Dream in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival 612 days ago, readily landed odds of 1/4 when making all on his debut over fences in the two-mile–five-furlong McInerney Beginners Chase.
Owned by Simon Munir amd Isaac Souede, he put in a fine round of jumping under Daryl Jacob for an unchallenged 15-length win.
Afterwards the rider commented: “He’s a great jumper but I haven’t ridden a Willie Mullins horse that fresh for a long time. When he sees a fence, he says let me at it. He takes them on and a couple that he’s got in deep I’ve tried to educate him.
“He was a very good horse over hurdles and it’s good to have him back again. He’s had a nice blow going down to the last but when I gave him a little squeeze he’s winged it and gone away nicely.
“He could be really exciting over two and a half or three miles. He’s got plenty of pace.”
Indiana Dream (9/4 joint favourite) looks another smart prospect after drawing right away on the run-in under Luke Dempsey to beat An Mhi by 15 lengths in the ITM Stallion Trail 13-14 January Maiden Hurdle.
“He’s a lovely looking horse and does everything right at home. He won a French bumper and looking at the size of him I’d say there is plenty of improvement,” said Mullins’ assistant David Casey of the J.P. McManus-owned gelding.
GORDON Elliott also saddled a double with first- and last-race successes for Harmonya Maker and Stellar Story respectively.
Harmonya Maker (5/4) made all under Jack Kennedy in the Wishing Everyone A Healthy 2023 Mares Hurdle and the Tim O’Driscoll-owned daughter of Saddler Maker took command in the straight for an easy 20-length verdict over Pink In The Park.
“She was good and loved this galloping track. It just wasn’t enough of a test the last day at Punchestown where the inside track was tight enough and in hindsight we should have gone a bit quicker.
“I’d say the further she goes the better she is. She’ll get an entry in the Solerina back here but we have a few mares to make plans for,” said Elliott.
The Cullentra House yard also landed the Jump Into January @fairyhouse (Pro/Am) Flat Race where Stellar Story got on top close home to beat Any Road by half a length at odds of 13/2.
The result was only confirmed after a lengthy stewards’ enquiry as Harry Swan’s mount edged right, bumping the runner-up on a couple of occasions.
The successful Shantou gelding cost Gigginstown House Stud £310,000 at Cheltenham last March, just after winning a point-to-point, and Elliott commented: “He’s a fine big jumping horse going forward and a bumper is only a bonus.”
‘Lucky to be alive’ Kashi back to winning ways
KASHI, runner-up last year in the Fairyhouse Membership 2023 Handicap Hurdle, went one better 12 months on when coming out best in an exciting finish.
Donagh Meyler’s mount kept on well on the run-in to just edge out Musta Lovea Lovea by a neck, with the winner’s stablemate Don’t Talk only giving best in the closing stages, three-quarters of a length back in third.
“He nearly killed himself coming out of the back of the horsebox last May. He’s very lucky to be alive and it’s just taken a while to get back where he was.
“He likes it around here and goes on the soft ground. We could go for a good handicap with him,” said Karl Thornton, who trains the 12/1 winner for Gary Ryan.
Cher Why Not (9/2) relished the stamina test of the three-mile Tote+ Pays You More At Tote.ie Handicap Hurdle, making steady headway under Cian Quirke and leading on the run-in to beat Mahler Appeal by two and a quarter lengths.
“He was third in this race behind Ronald Pump four years ago but got an injury and missed some time. He’s shoving on in years but he still tries hard.
“He never lets us down and a bigger field suits him as he likes to be passing horses,” said Tim Doyle, who trains the 11-year-old for his wife Claire.