O’Dwyer on Festival trail again with Folsom Blue

CONOR O’DWYER, whose record at Cheltenham is winning two Gold Cups and two Champion Hurdles, could be on the trail of the great Festival again next month.

These days the affable O’Dwyer plies his trade as a trainer and in yesterday’s Clonmel winner, Folsom Blue, has one with which to go to war.

Folsom Blue may not be the biggest horse in the world, but is bursting with talent and he destroyed the opposition in the Listed Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle.

Davy Russell was aboard and had the son of Old Vic moving sweetly through the contest. Russell made his move off the home turn and Folsom Blue quickly powered clear to beat Castle Wings by an easy nine lengths.

Commented O’Dwyer: “He has been entered for the Albert Bartlett (Cheltenham) and if we decide to go will not run before that.

“I was a bit dubious about the form of his last race at Thurles, because a number of horses didn’t perform, but that’s proved he is a proper one. It is hard to tell how good he is at home, he’s very laid-back.”

Stan James shortened Folsom Blue from 20-1 to 12’s for the Albert Bartlett.

Immediate Response, having his first outing for 830 days and for Willie Mullins, faces a huge hike in the weights following his success in the Clonmel Festival Week Handicap Hurdle.

He was galloping all over his rivals from a fair way out, led over the second last and eased away for Patrick Mullins to score by six and a half lengths.

“He is a very slick jumper”, said Mullins senior.

Immediate Response is in at Fairyhouse tomorrow and would look a certainty, under a mandatory penalty, if turned out again.

Mullins indicated, however, that he will be reluctant to run him. “It is not ideal and I don’t like doing it, especially with a horse who has broken down, as he has”, said the trainer.

Willie and Patrick combined to complete a double with Boxer Georg in the two and a half mile Hunters Chase.

In front over the second last, Boxer Georg found plenty to resist both Zardsky and Mountain Lough.

“He seems to be a stronger horse this season”, said Mullins senior. “If he’s qualified (he is) he will go to Cheltenham, but the main aim is the Foxhunters at Aintree, having finished second in it last year.”

Willie’s The Midnight Club went off at 4-5 in the Clonmel Festival Week Chase, but looked decidedly short on enthusiasm and could only manage a poor third behind Leanne and Trafford Lad.

Andrew Lynch eased Trafford Lad to the front going to five out, but Leanne found plenty for Bryan Cooper in the straight to wear down her rival near the line and win by three parts of a length.

Leanne is in the care of veteran trainer, Bill Harney, who said: “We will sit and think before deciding where she will go next.”

The opening Clonmel Festival Week Maiden Hurdle was a moderate contest, but produced a ready winner in Eoin Doyle’s Alf Wright.

Partnered with restraint by Barry Geraghty, he eased ahead going to the second last to easily beat Flaming Pop.

Reported Doyle: “He wants better ground, I was afraid of that today. We will see what the handicapper does now.”

The layers got a decent result in the five-horse Clonmel Festival Week Mares’ Novice Hurdle, with victory going to the Eddie Harty-trained Dressedtothenines.

The bulk of the money on offer was with Is Herself About and Noras Fancy. Is Herself About was trying to close down the winner when falling at the penultimate obstacle, while Noras Fancy was struggling a fair way out.

Dressedtothenines, only having the second outing of her life, was ridden by Niall Madden and returned at 14-1. Another race for mares is the plan for the daughter of Oscar.

Lar Butler’s Odonimee took the Beginners Chase at 11-1, but had her friends in the ring and was taken as high as 16-1.

Ridden by Sean Flanagan — this was his first since returning from Britain — the mare jumped for fun in front and was far too good for well-backed favourite, Ballyburke.

Said Butler: “She doesn’t have to make it, but needs a strong gallop. We will now pick out a mares’ novice chase for her.”

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