THE Tote Navan Novice Hurdle was added to this rescheduled meeting to form an eight-race card and Inthepocket enhanced his standing and remains unbeaten after holding on in a thrilling finish.
The two hurdles in the straight were omitted due to the low sun in this Grade 2 test where Gordon Elliott held a strong hand saddling three of the first four in the betting, but it was the Henry de Bromhead-trained 9/4 shot Inthepocket who travelled strongly to lead bypassing the normal second last.
The distress signals were certainly going out inside the final furlong but Rachael Blackmore’s mount held on by a neck at the line from Three Card Brag, with Absolute Notions four and a half lengths further back in third.
“He has plenty of gears but I was lucky as I should have held onto him a lot longer than I did,” reflected Blackmore. “It’s a long way up the straight on that ground but he’s a tough horse. He was a bit idle without the hurdles. He has a lovely attitude and he really switched off throughout the race. He jumps really well and we are delighted to have him.”
Winning owner J.P. McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “Henry was keen to go two and a half with him but you never know with a bit more experience he could easily go back in trip. He’s entered in the Lawlors Novice Hurdle back here (on January 8) so we’ll see how he is.”
Blackmore and de Bromhead were completing a double having earlier taken the Bar One Racing Guaranteed Odds All Channels Beginners Chase with Journey With Me.
The Robcour-owned gelding was getting his chasing career back on track after a fall at Gowran Park last month and headed the odds-on Flame Bearer before two out in this two-mile, five-furlong event. The 7/4 shot survived a mistake at the last before keeping on well to score by 13 lengths.
Stable representative Robbie Power said: “They went a good gallop and it took him a while to warm to his jumping after his fall the last day. He’s done plenty of schooling at home and it was great to get a clear round into him. He won’t be going back in trip and I’d say two and a half to three miles is his game. He was a decent hurdler and hopefully he’s going to be a better chaser.”
WILLIE Mullins introduced a really smart-looking sort in the Jack Carter Naas Member Maiden Hurdle with French import Impaire Et Passe (4/7 fav) scoring in impressive fashion.
The Diamond Boy gelding was bought for €155,000 at Arqana in April having easily won an APQS mile-and-a-half race the previous month and that looks money well spent as he bounded clear in the final furlong under Paul Townend to beat For Fear Of Frost by a facile 18 lengths.
“He galloped out through the line and on that ground there is not too many that will do that today,” said an obviously impressed Mullins. “He has huge potential and is one to look forward to for Simon (Munir) and Issac (Souede). He’s not entered in the Lawlors and maybe we could look at the Moscow Flyer in Punchestown.”
The champion trainer completed a double in the Bar One Racing Price Boosts Daily Flat Race when Loughglynn got the better of a protracted duel with Firefox – the pair stretching all of 26 lengths clear of the third.
“He’s a laid-back type of horse and kept responding. He stays very well and is a great ride as he only gives what you ask for,” said Patrick Mullins of the Jodmart Construction-owned 13/8 winner. “We took a chance running him in a hundred-grand race last year. I think he’s improved a lot and I think he’ll improve again.”
Ben Harvey wasted little time opening his account in the paid ranks – first rides as a professional were at Thurles just two days earlier – partnering Slane Hill (4/1) to a hard-earned three-quarter-length victory over Yeah Man in the Thank You Paul Quish Maiden Hurdle, the pair drawing 16 lengths clear of the third.
“Those unplaced maidens are great for horses that are not going to be top drawer,” said owner/trainer Barry Connell. “He’s a big, tall Shantou horse and I’d say we won’t delay him too long over hurdles. We’ll see what kind of mark we get and he has the scope for fences.”
All the hurdles were back in use for the Care At Home Services Mares Maiden Hurdle and Halka Du Tabert (5/2) added to a bumper win here last month when prominent throughout and staying on strongly after the last to beat evens favourite Eabha Grace by 11 lengths.
“She has a good high cruising speed but just gallops at the back of it and I told Jack (Kennedy) to make plenty of use of her today. I liked from the second last to the line the way she galloped. I’d say she’s smart,” said Gordon Elliott, who trains the daughter of Balko for Kenny Alexander. “She might go next for the Solerina in Fairyhouse at the end of January.”
All the rage
The two handicaps on the card both went to well-backed favourites. Carbon King was all the rage for the John Thomas McNamara Series (Q.R.) Handicap Hurdle and the 9/4 shot, available at 12/1 overnight and supported on track from 5/1, overcame an untidy jump at the last before asserting in the closing stages to beat Mastermind by three and a half lengths.
“He landed on all fours after the last but picked up lovely,” said winning rider Chris O’Donovan of the five-year-old owned by the Man About Dog Syndicate. “He probably wants a bit further but that’s up to Declan (Queally, trainer).”
Know The Game was sent off 5/2 favourite in the 17-runner Clinton Higgins Chartered Accountants Handicap Chase and gave supporters few worries, travelling well to challenge in the straight and driven out by Keith Donoghue after bypassing the final fence to beat The Eye Of Tulla by a length and three-quarters.
Winning trainer Jim Dreaper’s son and assistant Thomas said: “He’s a typical one of ours – big, green and awkward. We probably ran him in the wrong races but we needed to teach him how to race. I can’t say enough about the owners (Newell family) as they are the easiest people to train for. He’s entered at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day and might roll on to there.”