Juveigneur (1/2), a former six-time track winner for Nicky Henderson that was only short-headed in the 2007 renewal of the William Hill Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham festival, went into the lead after the sixth fence. The victorious 12-year-old pulled clear of Batt O’Connell’s Rudi Trucker from the second last, six lengths being the ultimate winning margin. Berkley secured the minor honours, five lengths further adrift.
“He missed the open at Dromahane on New Year’s Day due to a slight muscle problem. He really needed this run here today and I expect that he will improve a lot. Fingers crossed, it’s straight to Cheltenham now,” said O’Sullivan of Juveignuer, owned by Trevor Hemmings.
Juveigneur was promoted to 6/1 co favourite with Cashmans Bookmakers last night for the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
O’Sullivan also teamed up with Juveigneur’s rider Damian Murphy to collect the closing six-year-old geldings’ maiden, arguably the most competitive race of the day, with Saddle Pack (9/2).
Similarly sporting the familiar Hemmings colours, the previously twice-placed Saddle Pack made his way to the front at half-way. The winning son of Saddlers’ Hall jumped superbly and he effortlessly powered clear from two out to slam favourite Theresathingwrong by 15 lengths.
“Mr Hemmings was in my yard this morning, but he had to go back to Britain on business,” related O’Sullivan. “This is a lovely horse that we’ve always thought a lot of and he will probably go for a bumper now.”
Damian Murphy actually went away with three winners for he also landed the first division of the five-year-old mares’ maiden aboard Ballyeightra Lass (11/8), trained by his near-neighbour Thomas Carver from Dromtariffe. Ballyeightra Lass, representing Mike Smiddy, benefited from a change in previous tactics by going for home at the fifth last. She did however have her task greatly simplified when the pursuing A Better Excuse, who was less than a half-length at the time, fell at the last bringing down Takemetotheisland.
Mikey O’Connor had another afternoon to savour as he too went away with three winners. The 28-year-old kicked off aboard Eoghan O’Grady’s Headford Flyer (evens — 8/11) in the first split of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden. Placed fourth in a Killarney bumper last May, the 2007 Derby sale graduate Headford Flyer led from after five out to account for ‘Trixie’ Barry’s Oscar Green by 20 lengths.
O’Grady also supplied the Liscarroll amateur with his next winner in the form of Maryiver (3/1 – 2/1) who came home as she pleased in the second part of the five-year-old mares’ maiden. Owned by Ivor Dulohery from Ballyclough, the man responsible for buying 1991 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Garrison Savannah as a foal, Maryiver swept to the front on the approach to two out to eclipse eyecatching newcomer Wrong Identity by 15 lengths. Maryiver has tremendous potential as a broodmare as she’s out of a Petoski-sired half-sister to former Champion Hurdle winner Celtic Shot.
O’Connor later joined forces with Michael Winters, the breeder incidentally of Maryiver, to capture the winners of two with Ballyverane Oscar (4/6). Successful on his previous two points starts at Aghabullogue and Nenagh, Ballyverane Oscar had little difficulty in beating Torremuelle by four lengths and a hunters chase is next for the Kilian Lynch-owned son of Oscar.
Larry Murphy (18) from Knock outside Fermoy, had his initial success aboard Paul Cashman’s Lotta Presents (5/1) in the novice riders confined hunt maiden. Lotta Presents, a fine third at Knockanard the previous Sunday, gave a superb display of fencing from the front to see off King’s Chase by one and a half lengths. The stylish Murphy, cheered on by his parents Larry senior and Mag, is studying for his leaving cert at Fermoy’s Colaiste An Chraoibhin.