JACK Kennedy joined a select group of jockeys to ride a century of winners in an Irish National Hunt season when partnering a double aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained pair Coko Beach and Lucky Lyreen on this SBK Betting-sponsored Bank Holiday card at Punchestown.

“That’s probably as much fun as I’ve ever had on a racehorse” said a beaming Kennedy after bringing up the landmark 100th success of the campaign on Coko Beach in the P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.

The Gigginstown-owned grey was having his first run in this sphere and Kennedy added: “He loved it and is a natural” after the 11/8 favourite drew clear approaching the last to beat Genois by six lengths.

“Gordon has brought him to a local cross-country track for about a year to sweeten him up a bit and he’s won some good pots in that time. He loved it and was looking for the next one all the time. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, me or him!

“I won on Delta Work here before and have a 100% record on the cross-country track. He’s obviously a high-class horse and it opens up more doors for him.”

The nine-year-old was cut into 5/1 (from 10/1) for the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Reflecting on reaching the magical 100-winner mark, Kennedy continued: “I was stuck on 99 for a while and delighted to get it done. A big thanks obviously to Gordon, all his owners and also my agent Kevin O’Ryan.”

Doubled up

He doubled up when Lucky Lyreen successfully stepped up in trip by taking the near three-mile SBK Maiden Hurdle. The uneasy 6/4 favourite’s jumping was far from fluent, but he held too many guns for his eight rivals, beating Kinturk Kalanisi by two and

three-quarter lengths.

“He stays strong, idled in front but when something came to him, he went on again,” said Kennedy of the Lyreen Syndicate-owned gelding. “He lets you down a small bit with his jumping, but I think he just loses concentration a little bit on a hurdle.”

Mercurey maintains Mullins hot form

JACK Kennedy is 10 clear (101-91) of Paul Townend in the jockeys’ championship and the latter, who was sore after a fall the previous day, missed out on a winner when replaced by Danny Mullins aboard hot-pot Mercurey in the two-mile SBK Maiden Hurdle which put Willie Mullins on the 200-winner mark for the season.

The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned gelding made most of the running and was in command from early in the straight for a very easy 22-length verdict over Lightkeeper.

“His jumping was very good,” said Danny Mullins of the 3/10 winner. “He got tight to one down the back, but I wanted to see what he was like on an in-between stride as well. He figured that out well and when you need him, he’s very good.

“He’s filled into himself for a tall horse. It took him a year after that good four-year-old season but he’s getting there now.”

Willie Mullins completed a short-priced double half-an-hour later as Brian Hayes also adopted front-running tactics aboard Linden Arden in the two-and-a-half-mile SBK At Punchestown Maiden Hurdle.

The 8/11 shot was in control before a slight mistake at the last and kept on well to beat Pirate Island by four and three-quarter lengths.

Mullins’ son and assistant trainer Patrick said: “He relaxed much better today and it’s great to get a winner for the Bowes and out of Solerina. I think fences will be the making of him and we’ll be looking forward to going chasing with him next year.”

Hackett eyeing Final for

progressive Morricone

TOOMEVARA trainer Ray Hackett has the Final of the Full Circle Series back here at the Punchestown Festival in mind for Morricone after the Shantou gelding followed up a course win last month in the two-and-a-half-mile SBK Novice Handicap Hurdle. Darragh O’Keeffe had to overcome a slipped saddle when getting the well-backed 2/1 favourite up in the closing stages to deny the front-running Shannon Royale by half a length.

“It helped that they didn’t go a mad gallop early as he was stepping back up in trip, but he’s seen it out great,” said Hackett. “Darragh gave him a fantastic ride and I’m delighted for the boys (Ballyvara Racing Syndicate) who are all here again. He handles this place and when the ground gets nicer, I think he’ll go that little bit further.”

Pipers Boreen and No Fussing fought out a protracted battle in the straight for the SBK Mares Handicap Hurdle with the former just edging it by short-head under Conor McNamara as the pair pulled 25 lengths clear of the remainder.

“Her maiden runs weren’t bad; she’d always stay on well but was green and it’s taken a long time for the penny to drop,” said locally based Shane Nolan who trains the 6/1 winner for Tom Birmingham. “She showed a good attitude and is great to jump,”


Jim Dreaper, who sent out Folly Master to land a gamble here the previous week, was on the mark again but this time with unconsidered 28/1 outsider Lar’s Lass in the two-mile-six-furlong SBK Irish EBF Mares Handicap Chase. The six runners were closely bunched two out and the daughter of Ocovango just held off the late surge of Kates Hill by a neck.

Dreaper’s son and assistant trainer Thomas, commented: “In fairness Barry O’Neill, who has won a point-to-point and hunter chase on her, hopped off her at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day and said step her up in trip in a handicap with no weight on her back and give her a month.

“She’s honest and straightforward and owned by great people (Kitty and Nigel Skelly). We’ll look for something similar and go again. Paddy O’Brien works for Gavin (Cromwell) and is in with us a couple of days a week. He’s a good fella and good value for his claim.”

There was a sting in the tale for O’Brien who picked up a one-day whip ban.