Black Jack Ketchum has future chasing star written all over him

IF ever a horse has future Cheltenham Gold Cup prospect written all over him it is surely Jonjo O'Neill's Black Jack Ketchum.

He proved one of the most impressive winners of the week when storming away with the Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday.

He toyed with some decent rivals and it was always just a question of when Tony McCoy pressed the button.

He took the opposition out of their misery early in the straight, easing Black Jack Ketchum ahead and the son of Oscar swept clear from the last to score unextended by nine lengths.

O'Neill missed the race, at home in bed with flu, but this was surely the ideal pick me up.

McCoy, riding his third winner of the week, said: “The first race he won at Uttoxeter was a very average contest, but I said to Carl Llewellyn that he was a machine. He has a great attitude and never gets bothered.

“I was in front a little early, but he travelled and jumped well and I knew if I got him over onto the running rail it would keep his mind on the job.

“I'm delighted for Jonjo, because he's not very well, although I'd say he's feeling a bit happier now. He's done a brilliant job with this horse. To win six out of six is a great training performance.”

Ireland filled the next three placings with Charles Byrnes' Powerstation doing best in second.

Ridden out the back by Davy Russell, he tried hard to close down Black Jack Ketchum, but was always fighting a losing battle.

“You would need a shotgun to stop that winner”, quipped Byrnes with more than a hint of realism.

“We are delighted with our horse, we all backed him each-way, so there are no complaints.

“We would love to have won, but that's the way it goes. He has had a bit of a break and there's a good chance will run at Aintree.”

Commented Russell: “He felt a better horse than he did here in November. He rose to the occasion and has run a hell of a race.”

Mags Mullins' Travino ran his heart out in third, but would have preferred much softer ground, while Noel Meade's Back To Bid performed with real credit in fourth.

Said Mullins: “I am delighted with that run, he's a chaser in the making. It is good that he now has experience of Cheltenham and, hopefully, will be back next year for something like the SunAlliance Novices' Chase.”

Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson struck for the first time this week when Detroit City ran away with the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Formerly trained on the level by Jeremy Noseda, the grey stormed clear of stable companion Fair Along from the final flight to score by five lengths.

“The visor helped him today, he's very genuine, but is a horse that needs more than two miles”, reported Hobbs.

“He will be running over three miles before too long, I can't see him being quick enough for the Champion Hurdle next year.

“The Ladbrokes' World Hurdle or novice chasing would be more likely. He could go for a two and a half mile novice hurdle at Aintree and Punchestown is a strong possibility.”

Said Johnson: “I just pointed him in the right direction really. Two miles is plenty short enough, he just outstayed everything from the turn in.”

Willie Mullins had a miserable four days, except for Hedgehunter, and the performance of Mister Hight will have done little to improve the mood.

He hardly jumped a hurdle properly and, indeed, went markedly right at some of them. He eventually finished a never nearer eighth.

Jessica Harrington's Breathing Fire had every chance of filling third spot when crashing out at the last.

Raymond Hurley, who trains 20 horses at Clonakilty, Co Cork and Damien Murphy teamed up for their first Festival success when Whyso Mayo, carrying the colours of Kathleen O'Driscoll, wife of Bandon solicitor, Edward, won the Christie's Foxhunter Chase.

This was a quite staggering result with the first five home all trained in Ireland. Murphy was very positive on this tough gelding, sending him into the lead five out and then driving for all he was worth to hold First Down Jets, trained by Liam Burke for Carrigtwohill, Co Cork owner, Jerry O'Mahoney.

Whyso Mayo was transported to Cheltenham in Imperial Call's lorry and it was certainly a lucky omen.

Hurley, of course, trained Imperial Call after Fergie Sutherland and won a Heineken Gold Cup with him at Punchestown and also saddled the horse to take third in a King George at Kempton.

Said Hurley: “From day one this horse has been a superstar, he just gives his all. That was nerve wracking, but we always knew he was good enough.

“Damien gave him a brilliant ride. He has his own way of riding the horse and getting him to jump.”

Said Murphy: “I gave him a serious chance. I was cantering at Leopardstown last time when he unseated me at the third last.

“We went a nice gallop and though he missed a few earlier on he was super. I'm just trying to take it all in. I never thought I would get the chance to ride a winner at the Festival, but he proved me wrong.”

Whyso Mayo took Ireland's tally for the week to ten, a new record, beating the nine of a year ago.

Nicky Henderson won his third race of the meeting when Greenhope got the best of the battle with Arthur Moore's Tiger Cry over the last two fences in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase, a race which commemorates his late father, Johnny.

Henderson ended the meeting as leading trainer, while Ruby Walsh, with three winners, took the jockeys' title, snatching it with a flying late burst aboard Desert Quest in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.

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