Acapela Bourgeois, second leg of a double for Ruby Walsh, continued the remarkable record of the Hughes family in the Grade 2 At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle in Thurles yesterday.
In the colours of the Slaneyside Syndicate, the six-year-old made all under Walsh and survived a last flight blunder before beating Nambour by five lengths to give the Hughes’ Osborne Lodge team a fifth successive win in the race – the late Dessie won three-in-a-row with Lyreen Legend, Bright New Dawn and Giantofaman before Sandra continued the tradition last year with Sub Lieutenant and followed-up with Acapela Bourgeois.
“It’s fabulous to keep it in the family, ” stated the winning trainer. “This horse is as hard as nails and improving all the time. Ruby was impressed by him and said the track didn’t suit him. He’s a big-striding horse and would prefer a more galloping track. But it was a very good performance. It was a novice mistake at the last, but he had never gone down to a hurdle that quickly before.”
And she added: “We have options with him – he’s in Cheltenham, or we could bypass it and got to Fairyhouse and there’s always Aintree. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and make a decision next week.”
Only three of the five runners completed in the Grade 2 feature as Edwulf, challenging the winner, took a crashing fall at the third last flight while favourite Our Duke, clearly struggling after jumping just three flights, was pulled up after jumping the fifth last.
Successful on Acapela Bourgeois, Walsh had initiated his double when Uranna, having her third run over fences, justified 4/7 favouritism in the opening mares beginners chase, making all to beat Missyspet readily for Willie Mullins and the Supreme Horse Racing Club.
Walsh commented: “She was entitled to do that on her last run here, when she made a bad mistake at the second last. She jumped very well and quickened up smartly from the last.”
The champion looked set to complete a treble when Union Dues, having taken command from front-running Hurricane Darwin, crashed at the final flight of the Killinan Maiden Hurdle, leaving the favourite to score by twelve lengths.
Trainer Alan Fleming admitted: “We had a great bit of luck there. He’ll go chasing straight away and a bit of nice ground will help him.”
Lord Scoundrel, trained for Gigginstown House Stud by Gordon Elliott, registered his fourth success over fences when turning over even-money favourite Tennis Cap in the Thurles Racecourse Rated Chase.
Ridden by Bryan Cooper, the seven-year-old raced prominently with Sizing Platinum and, having shaken off that rival between the last two fences, stayed on to beat the favourite by a length and a half.
Winning rider Cooper explained: “He wants further, so I wanted to stretch them. He jumped great and had fitness on his side. He stayed gong well.”
John Joe Walsh saddled and second home in the three-mile Littleton Handicap Hurdle as Brian O’Connell brought 14/1 shot Sonny B, making his handicap hurdle debut, to outpoint 9/4 favourite positive Approach and Philip Enright.
“He seemed to be coming back to himself and was on a good old mark over hurdles,” was how Walsh summed-up the victory, adding, “He’ll probably go back over fences now.”
Trainer Ronnie O’Neill acknowledged: “He’s not an easy ride and the jockey was a great help,” after Rachael Blackmore partnered his Lets High Five It to a battling victory over Mississippi River in the lady riders’ handicap hurdle.
He explained: “He was a very difficult horse – he wasn’t broken until he was six and didn’t run until he was seven. He might run again in Gowran next week, but he’ll be heading for the Sales before long.”
Odds-on favourite Freeway Space (Jamie Codd) was turned over in the bumper, being worn down inside the final furlong by 16/1 shot Socksy, trained by Jimmy Mangan for Cidric Brookes and ridden by the trainer’s daughter Jane, who recording her first success in the saddle since last July. “Full credit to Jane – she gave her a nice, cool, calm ride,” said Mangan. “The mare stays well and will go back hurdling.”
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