The Grade 2 Ladbrokes’ Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles yesterday was won by Don Cossack, after he had been left clear by the final fence fall of Champagne Fever.
Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack came into the contest in the form of his life, three from three this campaign, but, rather surprisingly, Champagne Fever was much preferred to him in the market.
Champagne Fever tried to make all and certainly shaped as the most likely winner when quicker away than his rival from two out.
But Don Cossack is made of stern stuff this season and he battled back in terrific style. They rose in unison to that final fence, but Champagne Fever buckled on landing and the show was over.
Who would have won? To my eyes, Don Cossack was just getting on top and would have scored in any case.
Said Elliott: “He has done everything right this season. He has had a right test today, it was unfortunate the other horse fell, but Bryan (Cooper) felt he had him covered.
“The thing I like about our horse this season is that he is seeing out his races. He’s in the three big ones at Cheltenham, but will go for the Ryanair.
“I’m thrilled to have a horse like him and he definitely won’t run again before Cheltenham.’’
Said Cooper: “That rode a good race. He picked up about 20 yards before the last and I was confident we would have won. He’s improving all of the time and was just a frame of a horse last season.’’
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Don Cossack is now 5-1 with Ladbrokes, from 6-1, and with Boylesports, from 7’s, for the Ryanair.
Ruby Walsh said of Champagne Fever: “He jumped super, until the last, but didn’t travel with the same gusto as at Kempton. It was all to play for, but the fences have to be jumped and he didn’t jump it.’’
Willie Mullins provided two of the four runners in the W T O’Grady Memorial EBF Novice Hurdle, the 1-4 chance Milsean and 4-1 shot Measureofmydreams, both carrying the Gigginstown colours.
The hot pot tried to make all-of-the-running and the tactics looked sure to succeed for the majority of the two miles and six trip.
But he found nothing for Bryan Cooper heading to the final flight, as Ruby Walsh drove Measureofmydreams past to win by a comfortable two lengths.
Commented Mullins: “It’s a bit of a surprise, I suppose. Maybe, he is improving and better than we thought.’’
Mullins and Walsh completed a double when Vroum Vroum Mag lived up to her lofty reputation with a smooth display in the Leading Light Coolmore National Hunt Sires EBF Mares’ Novice Chase.
Her jumping was brilliant, although taking a chance at the penultimate obstacle, and took this with any amount in hand.
Said Mullins: “She gave me a fright at the second last, but it was a good performance. Every question we have asked her, she has answered.’’
The layers began their day with a screamer when Knockraha Pylon, trained by Adrian Maguire for Knockraha, Co Cork publican, Michael O’Donoghue, took the www.thurlesraces.ie Maiden Hurdle at odds of 66-1.
The daughter of King’s Theatre ran prominently throughout, but looked beaten when the favourite, Baily Cloud, eased into the lead jumping the second last.
But Knockraha Pylon is clearly a tough mare and she rallied back for Jonathan Burke driving to head Baily Cloud before the final flight and was nicely in control on the flat.
“That’s not a surprise, she is very good’’, reported Maguire. “She has just taken a little bit of time to come to herself.’’
Gigginstown, who were enjoying an excellent day, saw their luck run out with Empire Of Dirt in the Thurles Handicap Chase.
The top weight held a clear advantage, appearing to be full of running, when over-jumping and paying the penalty at the second last.
That left Kilcrea, ridden by Davy Russell for Jimmy Mangan, to get the best of a dour struggle with Betterthanalright.
Kevin Sexton, who rode Betterthanalright, was found guilty of using his whip with excessive frequency and suspended for four days.
Golden Plan, trained by Mark Fahey and ridden by Shane Butler, easily won the Matty Ryan Memorial Handicap Hurdle.
Butler was positive through the contest and the far from neglected in the market nine-year-old was always near the front.
He was in charge up the straight and though market leader, Horendus Hulabaloo, who wasn’t helped by a blunder three from home, closed to within three parts of a length, he was never going to close down the winner.
Willie Mullins completed a treble when odds-on shot Prince de Beauchene, ridden by his son, Patrick, toyed with the opposition on the way to taking the Arctic Tack Stud Hunters Chase.