Brand New Racing Post App Novice Chase (Grade 1)
THE common belief coming into this five-runner affair – Fil Dor would reassert his superiority over Saint Roi – went out the window as J.P. McManus’s seven-year-old exacted revenge in style.
A different day, different tactics, different jumping – and a very different result. Back in November, the four-year-old Fil Dor was able to track his main market rival and pounce to score by four lengths. Here, with a minor swing in the weights of a couple of pounds, the Saint Roi camp felt they had a good chance with a horse who was good enough to win a County Hurdle at his height.
“J.P. said to me that we kind of set it up for Fil Dor the last day and we’d try take our time today,” rider Mark Walsh reflected. Willie Mullins would later hail a “fantastic” change of tactics. Truth be told, this race was partly decided by tactics but perhaps principally decided by what happened at the third-last.
The race was rather sauntering along without much happening, Jack Kennedy – enjoying a sensational season – content in second as long-shot Visionarian towed them along. And it was at that obstacle, the final ditch, that the 8/11 favourite made his first mistake of note as a chaser.
It happens and, with a view to the future, Elliott will be delighted at the flat speed the youngster showed to apparently rally without too much effort back into a challenging position.
Walsh had clearly spent much of the race eyeing up the progress of his old adversary and now he was able to strike whenever he felt the time was right. That said, for all his turn of foot helped him become a very high-class hurdler on his day, Visionarian would not go down without a fight.
It appeared as though the 3/1 winner was always going to get there off the back of the last and he did assert by two lengths and a quarter – but Visionarian deserves immense credit, flooring the remainder and only giving up the lead up the run-in. Kennedy, likely thinking of better days ahead, accepted matters aboard Fil Dor back in third.
The disappointment of the €100,000 affair was undoubtedly Hollow Games. Desperately weak in the market, he looked really laboured and was a dozen lengths behind his stablemate at the wire.
McManus, of course, has the hot favourite for the Arkle in the shape of Jonbon but Saint Roi might just be a better chaser than hurdler, something Walsh hinted at subsequently – so odds of 14/1 still available about him should not be dismissed.
Mullins enthused: “I thought he ran very well against a horse that had already had a run in Navan. If he’d won we’d be coming here anyway so, rather than running in another beginners’ chase, I thought let him have a crack at a good prize.
“He jumps well enough and he’d schooled very well in the meantime. We decided to change the tactics. J.P. was wondering would he be better waited with and Mark agreed. He is a nice prospect for the rest of the season.
Walsh was unusually chatty after the race, befitting the relief of a top-level winner on day one of an iconic festival.
“Fences have settled him down. He’s very good, very clever and I knew Jack was in trouble. He made a mistake at the ditch so I just had to kick on to the last and make sure I got a good jump,” he said.
“Everything went to plan for me so when it goes to plan it’s great and it’s great to get a winner on the first day. It just takes a bit of pressure off for the rest of the week.”
It seems likely Saint Roi and Fil Dor will meet again this season, perhaps at the Dublin Racing Festival before a return to Cheltenham.
SAINT Roi was arguably usurped in terms of the impression made on day one by Lossiemouth, who does her talking on the track and routed her rivals in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, the middle leg of a treble for Willie Mullins.
A crowd of 15,797 featured a sizeable chunk of Dublin students and they saw a true star of the now and the future in the daughter of Great Pretender, who somehow managed to look even better than she did at Fairyhouse, cruising home by seven and a half lengths in the colours of Susannah Ricci.
Sent off 4/5, she raced a little bit more exuberantly this time. With the previously impressive Cougar running no sort of race, it was left to the winner’s stablemate Gala Marceau to chase her home, the well-backed filly an eye-catcher in second. The whole affair served to confirm Mullins’ utter dominance of this division despite the quality and quantity of J.P. McManus-owned rivals.
“In a truer-run race you’ll see the true Lossiemouth,” commented an impressed Paul Townend, remarkably implying plenty more to come. Mullins saw fit to pay credit to both of the first two home.
“I really didn’t have to do much with her since Fairyhouse,” said the champion trainer and, asked by The Irish Field how strong his team of soon-to-be-four-year-olds was, he said: “You’d have to say it’s good this year, wouldn’t you?
“She did that nicely and jumped well. She was hard on herself and was still able to win well enough.
“I am very pleased with her, and with Gala Marceau. Lossiemouth looks like she could be the real deal and deserves her favouritism for the Triumph,” a reflection of bookmakers’ snap decision to cut her into a general 6/4 for the championship race for four-year-olds come March.
At that stage, he was two winners in, Dark Raven defying an absence for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede in the second maiden hurdle. The Malinas-bred hasn’t been rushed by connections and was comfortably able to justify evens favouritism under Townend.
“He had setbacks last year and we decided to take the season off so he’s come back nicely this season. He looks to have an engine and jumps well enough.
“I am very happy to see him doing it over the minimum trip as well. I am hoping he will improve over further and it looked like he wasn’t stopping at the end,” Mullins said.
A WINNER in the silks of Sue Magnier in the first at Leopardstown is normal, but not over flights. Nor is it usual for a steed rated a staggering 117 on the flat and once favourite for the Derby to go hurdling, but High Definition made this project an even more intriguing one with a win first time up.
The omission of one of the hurdles due to the low-lying sun probably helped the winner, but there was clear room for better in his technique too. Bookmakers quoted 20/1 for the Supreme.
“It was a nice start over hurdles for him. On the whole, he put up a good enough round of jumping,” said Joseph O’Brien.
“He was a bit green at a couple and having to make the running on his first run over hurdles wasn’t ideal. He went particularly right at one in the back.
“The Dublin Racing Festival is an option but whether we want to go straight into that class or take baby steps we’ll have to see.”
With such dominance of the jumps game by a select few, it’s not unusual that one of the lesser races saw the greater scenes of celebration, and such was the case as Georgie Benson recorded her first winner over jumps in the novice handicap hurdle aboard the Peter John Flood-trained Tullypole Annie.
The 33/1 chance found plenty to repel the strong-travelling Brookie by a length. The winning connections, the Jolly Boys Syndicate, looked like all their Christmases had come at once. Enfield-based Flood would later quip: “To have a winner here is something else: usually I am just watching it on the TV.”
Those raucous cheers were perhaps usurped when the Gavin Crowell-trained Final Orders completed four chase wins on the bounce under a positive Keith Donoghoe in the handicap.
Given the rise in class and his ability to stay a mile farther, it was striking how dominant the 7/2 chance was in the colours of the C M D Syndicate. However, Cromwell couldn’t conceal that he had a minor regret even in victory.
“It’s all about his jumping. He needs three miles over hurdles. He sickens other horses with his jumping and he loves it. The only shame was he didn’t get into the Paddy Power. Maybe next year.
“The lads are all friends of Garvan Donnolly; obviously Garvan trained this lad before, and they’ll have some fun today.”
Gordon Elliott had drawn a blank going into the bumper and there was something appropriate about Pour Les Filles pouncing close home to nail the Mullins-trained Did I Ask You That under Harry Swan as Davy Russell had bought the son of Pour Moi last year.
Russell probably shook more hands on the day than Charlie Haughey might have when looking for votes.
He has an eye for a horse, as we all know. “He is a horse for the future and we’ll take our time with him,” said Elliott of the promising 4/1 winner, who runs in the colours of Kenny Haughey, Laura Haughey and Kieran Byrne.