Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

AIN’T That A Shame had developed a reputation for being one of the most frustrating cliff horses in training, but those who loyally keep the faith in him - including his determined rider Rachael Blackmore - were rewarded in some style when he saved the best performance of his career for a win in the Goffs Thyestes Chase.

Punters, bookmakers, and perhaps even winning trainer Henry de Bromhead, appeared to have reservations over whether Blackmore had chosen the best of the stable’s two runners.

Stablemate Shantreusse (ridden by Darragh O’Keeffe) was sent off one of the shortest-priced runners in the field at 7/1, while Robcour’s winner was double those odds at 14/1.

Blackmore was at her best, however, on the 10-year-old who she rode when disappointing as a 10/1 shot in last year’s Randox Grand National at Aintree. She sent him on to the lead before the third last here, having never been too far away from the pace, and extracted the maximum from her mount to fend off a spirited effort from front-running fancy Glengouly (SP 7/1).

Two and a half lengths separated them at the line, with another of the main contenders, Angels Dawn, third and clear of Stormy Judge and Macs Charm.

Speaking after his second win in the race, having struck with Champagne West in 2017, de Bromhead said: “We go back a long way with the Thyestes. It was great to have dad [Harry] here the first time we won it - it was the 25th anniversary of him winning it with Grand Habit - and it’s great to have mum [Sally] here today.

’Brave move’

“I’m delighted to get it for Robcour, and it was some ride by Rachael. She was amazing on him. I thought it was a brave move from her. The other horses we had in the race were shorter in the betting and she stuck with this guy, and I’d say Davy Roche at home had a bit to do with it.

“I was saying to her last week, ‘would we be calling you wrong-choice Rach?’ but she didn’t find that very funny! Anyhow, she was absolutely spot-on, and fair play to her.”

On whether the winner is dependent on the testing ground he faced at Gowran, de Bromhead said: “He had a good run at Leopardstown last season on nicer ground. I’m not sure where he’ll go next. We were coming in here a bit grey after disappointing in the Troytown. I suppose they’re allowed to have a bad day.”

Blackmore savoured her first win in the historic handicap.

“What a special race, it really is,” she said. “I started off with Shark Hanlon in my early days nearby and I live very close to here so it’s brilliant. It’s a great race with history. This fella has been knocking on the door plenty in these races so it’s good to get his head in front.”

Double for de Bromhead

There appeared to be plenty of market confidence behind Emmet Mullins’ new recruit Benjis Benefit in the opening Langtons Kilkenny Handicap Hurdle, but that 4/6 favourite failed to collect in fourth and it was de Bromhead and Darragh O’Keeffe who got the afternoon off to a winning start through 14/1 shot Champagne Mahler.

The mount of Darragh O’Keeffe was one of the more unexposed types in this two-mile event but needed to bounce back from a heavy defeat on his handicap debut at Cork last month (when 4/1 joint-favourite) for the B & M Partnership, who were having their first winner with de Bromhead here.

“I was disappointed with him at Cork but he obviously struggled with the longer trip then,” said the winning trainer.

“We initially thought he was crying out for further but we dropped him back today. He loved the ground, jumped really well. He is a fine big horse, a real chaser.”