Russell poised to land jockeys’ title

DAVY RUSSELL can surely now be described as champion jockey-elect, following a splendid double at Thurles yesterday.

The brace took his total to 98 for the campaign, 17 clear of nearest rival, Ruby Walsh. Pride of place has to go to the former Cheltenham festival winner, Henry de Bromhead’s Berties Dream, who put up a game display to land the Irish Jockeys’ Association Hurdle.

He is almost certainly suited by a much softer surface, but made light of such a consideration, making all of the running.

Empire Theatre looked set to swamp him running to the final flight, but the winner kept finding for Russell and was a hard-earned neck to the good at the line.

“He’s some horse”, exclaimed de Bromhead. “He won here on deep ground on January 7 and is back now on polar opposite ground.

“He is tough out and I’m delighted to have him. Hopefully, he will be alright in the morning and the plan is to enter him in the stayers’ hurdle at Punchestown.”

Russell began by guiding de Bromhead’s Old Laxey to victory in the Bavaria Beer Maiden Hurdle.

The Old Vic gelding made most of the running, responding to his pilot’s driving to hold market-leader, Spot Fine, who threatened danger all the way up the straight.

Commented de Bromhead: “The ground made the difference, he disappointed us a bit in the winter.

“Davy said he loved it. He will run through the summer, as long as the ground is nice, and the sooner meets a fence the better.”

Galloping Gander, having a first outing since September, ran away with the Templemore Beginners Chase.

Confidently handled by under-rated Sean McDermott, the winner led over the third last to beat disappointing favourite, Der Spieler, with plenty in hand.

Trainer, John O’Shea, said: “I’m delighted for the owners (Newtown Anner Stud Farm), they have eight horses with me. He wants good ground and will tour around at those festivals for the summer.”

Michael Hourigan, fresh from a double at Limerick on Sunday, did it again when Awkward Moment won the Cashel Beginners Chase and Dizzy Rascal the Arch Bar Maiden Hurdle. Both were ridden by the capable Adrian Heskin.

Awkward Moment was probably a lucky winner however because the favourite, Shifa, was travelling strongly, marginally in front, when taken out by Ruby Walsh going to the second last. The mare had broken down.

Awkward Moment was left in the lead and had little trouble holding the always prominent, Rockshandy.

Said Hourigan: “He wants that better ground and will now be entered in a novice handicap at Fairyhouse.”

Dizzy Rascal got the better of a real tussle with Shrapnel from the last, thus depriving Davy Russell of a treble.

“She has always been frustrating, but was going to win one if you stuck with her long enough”, reported Hourigan. “She is likely to be covered now by either Gateway or Ask.”

Jane Mangan gave Piper Hill a terrific drive to beat Nina Carberry on Six Stone Ned in the Bumper, prompting winning trainer, Tommy Stack, to remark: “She can ride.”

The principals had a real set-to through the final furlong, with Mangan keeping her mount perfectly balanced to score by half a length. The Doncaster sales are now on the menu for Piper Hill.

The modest Clonoulty Handicap Hurdle saw a change of fortune for trainer, Paul Flynn, whose Whats Up Britta delivered.

Backed from 7-1 to 5-1 and partnered by Michael Darcy, he was in front before the straight to easily beat Rudigreen.

It was Flynn’s first winner in this country since Fearchar scored at Cork on August 1.

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