Sinoria put her assured stamina to good use when continuing her upward curve with a game success in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.
Having scored over two and a half miles at Down Royal on her previous start, the Henry de Bromhead-trained six-year-old took a drop back in trip in her stride when gaining some valuable black type in the listed prize.
Hitting the front over the second last, the 6/1 shot found plenty to get the better of a battle from the back of the final flight with favourite Chosen Mate, before going on to score by three-quarters of a length.
Following the race, the winner was introduced at 7/1 by Paddy Power for the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
De Bromhead said: “She’s really tough and it was a great move by Rachael (Blackmore) at the second last. She said she was very brave coming down to the last with the other horse in on top of her.
“We will have to consider the Mares’ Novices’ at Cheltenham for her now. We are in a very fortunate position having Honeysuckle, who is owned by Kenny (Alexander) as well.
“We’ll see nearer the time, but it’s nice to have two. Both will stay further so maybe we could look for an option for one of them to run against the geldings. I’m delighted to win today and get black type as she has a savage pedigree.”
Dounikos gained his first win in more than a year as he gave trainer Gordon Elliott back-to-back victories in the BoyleSports Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.
After claiming the race 12 months ago with Folsom Blue, the Co Meath handler repeated the trick as the eight-year-old secured his first success since landing a Grade 2 at Limerick on Boxing Day 2017.
Settled just off the pace for much of the extended three-and-a-half-mile prize, the 12/1 shot moved into contention when joining long time leader Wishmore and stablemate General Principle to make it a line of three at the last.
Meeting the obstacle on a good stride, Dounikos quickened away up the run in before prevailing by four and a half lengths from Wishmore, with last year’s Irish Grand National winner General Principle a further a half-length adrift in third to make it a clean sweep for owners Gigginstown House Stud.
Elliott said: “He went well in the Paddy Power at Christmas for a long time, but he was never happy in the Thyestes Chase and ended up falling at the second last. For a big horse, he probably likes a bit of good ground. He’ll be an English or Irish National horse. He has a high rating and wasn’t a bad novice.
“The weights are out this week for the Grand National and I’ll have over 20 entered. I was very happy with General Principle as well.”
All roads lead back to the Cheltenham Festival for veteran Josies Orders after he went one better than 12 months ago in the P.P Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase.
After finding stablemate Auvergnat too strong in the three-mile-one-furlong contest last year, the Enda Bolger-trained 11-year-old gained compensation when defeating Hurricane Darwin by two lengths to claim the 10th victory of his career.
The J.P. McManus-owned gelding heads for the Glenfarclas Chase at the Festival which he won in 2016.
Bolger said: “You probably know where we are heading! He stays well and sees it out, and we’ll try to keep him in one piece now for March. They weren’t bad horses in it this year, it was a good test and the timing is just right.
“His ears were pricked and that’s why those things (blinkers) are on him. I’m chuffed with that, and it’s poignant that it was in the race for my old boss.”
Riders Onthe Storm could also be bound for the Festival after Tom Taaffe’s charge made the most of a drop from Grade 1 company with a length-and-a-quarter success in the Richard Maher Memorial Rated Novice Chase.
Bryan Cooper said of the 2/1 winner: “It was a good performance and after his run in Limerick, he was entitled to do that. It rode a good race with a strong gallop and it suited me. The winning margin could have been a bit better as he pulled up a bit in front. He’s going the right way, and you would learn more in one of these races than you would in a beginners’ chase.
“He has options now and could go to Cheltenham for the novice handicap (Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase).”
REVENGE IS SWEET
Take Revenge brushed aside trainer Martin Brassil’s ground concerns when going one better than on his last visit to the track in the Punchestown Festival Ticket Deal Discount Maiden Hurdle.
Brassil said of the 4/1 winner: “We were delighted with his run here the last time and kept it in mind that we might as well go back to where he ran well.
“It was borderline with the ground, but when I looked at it today I was happy with it, even though he would like it a bit easier.”
Dinny Lacey (7/1) from the yard of James Motherway got up by half a length to take the Punchestown Festival 30th April to 4th May INH Flat Race, while Denis Hogan’s Lady Writer (7/1) took the David Trundley Artist at Punchestown Handicap Hurdle.
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