HMS Seahorse booked his ticket for Cheltenham with a convincing success in the Navan Handicap Hurdle last Saturday.
Paul Nolan’s charge came with a well-timed surge on the run-in, under Sean O’Keeffe, to claim the €40,000 hurdle contest.
The Galileo gelding had tracked the leaders in the two-and-a-half-mile contest before powering home from the last to record a two-and-a-quarter length win over Felix Desjy.
Nolan is now eyeing the Coral Cup with Sonja Buckley and Anne Coffey’s chesnut: “He gave him a brilliant ride. Sean said he came for him every time he asked him.
“He needed to jump the last and he was long at it. He seems to be jumping far better since he was gelded. We might look at the Coral Cup with him. That’s where the lads would love to go.
“We’ll have to look at a Pertemps qualifier. It would be great to have more options, but that might be tight enough (timewise).”
It’s For Me shot to the head of the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Bumper when running out a very impressive winner on his ‘track’ debut and first outing for Willie Mullins.
The French-bred gelding had won a point-to-point in some style for Stuart Crawford last April and went to post a 4/9 shot on his racecourse bow.
Patrick Mullins produced the Jeu St Eloi gelding to lead on the bridle two furlongs from home and he quickened away over a furlong out to post a very easy 10-length success. The winning rider, in the colours of Simon Munir and Issac Souede, said: “He’s much better on the track than he is at home. At home he doesn’t flash.
“That was very impressive. He was a bit keen all the way but he quickened up very well. That was as good as anything that has been seen this year.”
The five-year-old is now a general 4/1 shot for the Cheltenham contest.
The Mullins double had been initiated when 11/10 favourite Shanbally Kid ran out a cosy winner of the two-and-a-half mile maiden hurdle.
Paul Townend donned the Gigginstown colours on the £190,000 purchase and he came to lead at the last before recording a length-and-three-quarters success over Monty’s Star.
It was the first victory for Mullins and Gigginstown since their recent reconciliation, with the champion trainer having last saddled a winner for the leading owners when Devils Bride won in the summer of 2016.
“It took me a while to get him jumping, to be honest,” said Townend afterwards.
“I was probably there a bit soon on him as he didn’t do a whole lot when he hit the front, but I was always holding them behind me.
“He’s still quite a raw individual. I kind of settled the race really quickly and then he was just doing enough. I’d say there is a bit more in the tank.
“The further he went the better he jumped. He’ll be fine and should progress again.”
Hurdle double wins for
Cromwell and Donoghue
GAVIN Cromwell has his team in fine form and secured a double on the card, courtesy of Path D’oroux and Pure Sirloin.
The opening rated novice hurdle, over just shy of two miles, was an incident-packed contest with Landrake falling three from home and bringing down Spirit Of Legend. Intranet was unfortunately also pulled up injured after the second last.
Keith Donoghue got a clear run on 3/1 shot Path D’oroux as he led two from home to record a four-and-three-quarter length win over Ifiwerearichman.
“I know there were fallers but he won the race in a nice manner,” said Cromwell, who trains the six-year-old for the French Connection Partnership.
“He travels lovely every day. Even in the Royal Bond he travelled very well but he cut out in a matter of 50 yards.
“He ran a lot better in Leopardstown the last day (when fourth to Facile Vega) and hopefully he’s on the way back.
“The ground is no bother to him as he’s a big, strong horse and he has plenty of gears too. I suppose the owners would like to go to Cheltenham for something so we might look at one of the handicaps.”
It was a poignant success for Donoghue with the jockeys wearing armbands in memory of former trainer Andy Lynch, his grand-uncle, who had passed away the previous Wednesday.
Cromwell was full of praise for his jockey as the pair completed the brace with Pure Sirloin in the Ardmulchan Handicap Hurdle.
The Shantou gelding, in the colours of the Flooring Porter Syndicate, emerged on top after a thrilling three-way finish to the two-and-a-half mile contest.
Donoghue got a good tune out of the 7/1 shot as he disputed close home and just edged the verdict at the line by a short-head from Gold Haven. Penny Jar was just a head further back in third.
“He would want to learn to jump better but he was good over the last two which got him out of jail,” said Cromwell.
“He made plenty of mistakes and Keith gave him a smashing ride to land him there. He’s a work in progress and we’ll look for something similar again.”
MAHLER Mission produced a fine front-running performance to open his account over fences in the Wilkinstown Beginners Chase.
John McConnell’s charge cut out the running in the three-miler and kicked on after the third last, under newly-turned professional Ben Harvey.
The Mahler gelding, a 10/3 shot, galloped on strongly in the closing stages to post a 10-length success over Tenzing.
“He’s progressing all the time. We tweaked his wind after (finishing second at) Cheltenham (in October) and it’s done a great job,” said McConnell.
“He just loves it. He’s very clever for a big horse, he can go in and fiddle. He just gallops and jumps and he’s just decent.
“We put him in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham this week and we’ll certainly look at it, you wouldn’t be averse to going after that.
On the agenda
“All the big handicap chases are on the agenda as well. There are a lot in the UK worth a lot of money. There are loads of options with him, he’s only a young horse.”
The other race over fences on the card produced a much tighter finish as Four Country Roads lunged late to land the Gormanlough Handicap Chase.
Brian McMahon’s charge hit a flat spot mid-race but Diarmuid Moloney got a great tune from the 14/1 shot in the closing stages to pip Sanibel Island at the line for a head victory.
“I’m delighted. I thought he was going to be pulled up with a mile to run,” said McMahon, who trains the nine-year-old for Tony O’Donnell.
“For once in his life he dug in and Diarmuid has given him a savage ride. We’ll enjoy this because it can be a long time between drinks with him.”