As has been well documented, Dessie Hughes’ charge was left out of the entries due to a clerical error.
At Leopardstown yesterday the seven-year-old emphasised he is easily the best we have to offer as far as two milers are concerned with a decent performance to land the Bailey’s Arkle Cup, on an afternoon which only got better for his Curragh handler.
His jumping was once again impeccable and it was always only a question of when Roger Loughran pushed the button.
Schindlers Hunt led over two out and then kept going strongly in the straight, as King Johns Castle tried to close.
One major firm went 5-6, but he was mainly put in at 4-5 and hardened through all the rates to 8-13.
Commented Hughes: “He went to the second last running away and then idled in front. He had definitely improved in his work at home.
“Schindlers is in the SunAlliance at Cheltenham, but is unlikely to run. There’s a race at Ascot over two miles and three and that could be next. Then we have the Powers’ Gold Cup at Fairyhouse and there’s also a nice race at Punchestown.”
Willie Mullins saddled the first two in the Frank Conroy Memorial Maiden Hurdle, but they finished the wrong way round for most punters, with Scotsirish beating favourite, Cobham.
It was a decent performance on the part of the winner, who raced prominently throughout.
Davy Condon pushed him ahead approaching the last and Scotsirish forged away to score by three and a half lengths.
“He disappointed me in a bumper last season, having given a lot of money for him out of a point-to-point”, said Mullins.
“I told Davy to let him bowl along and expected him to get tired. I’d be anxious to take him to Cheltenham for either the Ballymore Properties Hurdle or the Brit Insurance Hurdle”.
The real eye-catcher of the contest was Hairy Molly, the Cheltenham bumper winner at last year’s Festival. He jumped really well, led with under a circuit to cover and only began to weaken heading to the final flight. Scotsirish and Hairy Molly were both offered at 20-1 for the Ballymore by Grahams, but rather strangely William Hill eased Hairy Molly to 25-1 from 20’s. Scotsirish is 33-1 with them.
Mullins, who has won the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham five times, is back on the trail of that race, after newcomer Arbor Supreme had produced a fine effort to land the concluding bumper.
He made just about all the running, powering clear in the straight to beat Well Saved by an unflattering eight lengths.
Arbor Supreme was partnered by 16-year-old Emmet Mullins, a son of Willie’s brother, George. It was a first on the track for the youngster, having recently opened his account in the point-to-point fields.
“Emmet did very well, he is a difficult ride”, said Mullins. “I think he’s well up to going across (to Cheltenham) and won’t run in the meantime.”
Arbor Supreme was given a 20-1 quote by William Hill.
The teak-tough Kazal shrugged off top weight to take the Toshiba Copier Novice Hurdle in the hands of Barry Geraghty.
He had plenty on here, but showed terrific battling qualities when the war began to rage. Geraghty pushed him ahead going to the second last and Kazal kept pulling out more and more as Aitmatov threatened all the way to the line.
The verdict was a head and a stewards’ inquiry was quickly called. Kazal certainly interfered with the runner-up, but it was literally on the line and the stewards, quite rightly, made no alteration to the placings.
Said trainer, Eoin Griffin: “He’s tough, I was anxious not to give him a hard time of it and have now run the horse three times in a month.
“But he takes everything in his stride and three miles is really his trip. If the ground is soft at Cheltenham then he will go for the Brit Insurance Hurdle.
“There’s another Brit race at Haydock on February 17 and that might be next. He’s going to be an exciting chaser.”
Liz Lalor gave Carrigeen Kalmia a smashing drive to take the Clarkson Financial and Property Handicap Chase.
This is a tremendous mare, who jumps for fun. The 23 year-old had her near the front throughout and the daughter of Norwich threw a fine leap to lead at the third last.
The game appeared up, however, when In The High Grass edged past going to the last and, particularly, when grabbing a couple of lengths advantage on the run in.
But Lalor didn’t panic, got a renewed effort from her charge and was rewarded close home as Carrigeen Kalmia fought back to win by a head. It was Ms Lalor’s ninth success on the track.
Niall Madden, who partnered In The High Grass, was suspended for a day for using his whip excessively.
Jet Propelled got the full Tony McCoy treatment to take the Flying Legend At Ballintry Stud Handicap Hurdle.
Virginia Preuil looked sure to score when shooting ahead off the home turn, but Jet Propelled gradually wore him down.
“He’s a big horse who jumps well and could be a nice chaser in the making”, remarked trainer, Charlie Swan.