After a frustrating series of five second-place finishes, interrupted only by a late departure when in contention in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree festival of 2015, the talented Alpha Des Obeaux earned a long overdue return to the winner’s circle with a convincing victory in the Galmoy Hurdle.
Trained by Mouse Morris, who has also been somewhat frustrated by a sequence of near-misses with recent runners, the well-backed 13-8 favourite travelled well on the heels of Martello Tower until edging ahead up the straight on the first circuit.
Back in a share of second passing the stands, he travelled and jumped well thereafter and, when Martello Tower made a mistake at the third-last, he hit the front once more.
The last-named was soon back on terms but, under the guidance of Bryan Cooper, Alpha Des Obeaux asserted between the last two flights, and stayed on strongly to score by 11 lengths, from At Fishers Cross.
Of the winner’s sequence of placed efforts, a relived Morris admitted: “Better to be second than last, but, in fairness to the horse, he had been beaten by some good horses and on ground he would hate.
“I was very happy with that performance. He showed at Liverpool that he’s a much better horse on better ground, although there was nothing wrong with him today.
“I’ll discuss with Gigginstown whether or not we go straight to Cheltenham, but he hasn’t had a lot of racing and could run again. He was upsides Thistlecrack when falling at Aintree, so hasn’t a lot to find with him.”
The bookmakers were suitably impressed, cutting him to 8-1 for the World Hurdle.
Word was that Ruby Walsh was arriving at Gowran Park with 2498 successes worldwide to his name and that the 2500 milestone could be reached courtesy of two favourites in the opening races.
After Footpad landed the odds in the four-year-olds’ contest with the minimum of fuss and Au Quart De Tour did likewise in the two-mile maiden hurdle, it was put to Walsh that he had reached the magic figure. “I don’t know for sure, but as long as the winners keep coming I don’t care,” came the typically candid reply. Footpad was sent off the 1-10 favourite to see off just two rivals and the Willie Mullins-trained gelding eased upsides Jazz Ranger jumping the second-last before sauntering clear to a facile success.
“He did what he had to do and his jumping was sharper than at Leopardstown (when behind stable companion Apple’s Jade),” said Mullins. “He never really raced properly last time, and is certainly still a Triumph Hurdle horse. He’ll go to the Grade 1 at Leopardstown in a couple of weeks’ time, and we’ll see how he gets on there.”
Au Quart De Tour showed no ill-effects from his last-hurdle fall at Fairyhouse last month with a fluent victory in the two-mile Langton House Hotel maiden hurdle.
“For a Robin Des Champs, he copes well with that ground – it’s very testing,” said Mullins. “He could step up in trip by half a mile, or more, and will get an entry in all the novice races in Cheltenham.”
Mullins completed a treble on the day when Tell Us More secured a first success over fences, in the two-mile-two beginners’ chase.
Sent to the front a long way from home, he ran down a couple of the fences but ultimately proved a class apart as he stretched away late to win with a considerable amount in hand.
“He’ll be better on better ground and wants to go another bit,” said Mullins. “He needs to brush up his jumping and will be entered at Cheltenham, but might keep him for the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. I’d like to get another run into him before then.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Mullins stable, as Avenir D’Une Vie, odds-on favourite for the bumper, traded at 1.01 before succumbing to the late challenge of the improving New To This Town, ridden by Kate Harrington.
The winner, successful on debut in a Thurles bumper from which runner-up Articulum subsequently scored, looked beaten but found an extra gear to collar the leader.
“Katie said he really hadn’t a clue, he only got going when the penny dropped and away he went,” said winning handler Jessica Harrington. “Being by Milan, I’d imagine he’ll be better on better ground.”
John Joe Walsh was on the scoresheet when useful chaser Page Turner took full advantage of his hurdling mark to upset favourite Ice Cool in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.
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