Felix Yonger bags second Hilly Way Chase

Narrow winner of the race in Cork last year, the Willie Mullins-trained Felix Yonger gained his second Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase success when the rescheduled Grade 2 event proved the feature of yesterday’s eight-race card in Navan.

Felix Yonger bags second Hilly Way Chase

First leg of a double for Ruby Walsh and owners Graham and Andrea Wylie, and the first of three winners on the day for Willie Mullins, Felix Yonger tacked the leaders throughout and switched to the outside between the last two fences, picked up well to lead before rising at the final obstacle. And, driven clear, he stayed on to beat Bright New Dawn by two and a half lengths.

Willie Mullins commented: “He was very good because that isn’t his ground. Christmas will come too soon, so we’ll look for something over two or two and a half miles for him in the New Year. We’ll keep him at home.”

Winning rider Walsh added: “He was the best horse in the race and had the form in the book. He finished off in style last season and had a nice first run back in Clonmel.

“The ground is heavy enough for him. But he’s a horse that’s not short of speed and I wanted to hold on to him and have one run at them.”

Black Hercules, also ridden by Ruby, impressed on his eagerly-awaited chasing bow in the Drogheda Beginners Chase. Left in front at the ninth, his only danger in the last mile was stable-companion Sambremont. But Ruby oozed confidence all the way and, when he asked Black Hercules to race going to the last, he drew clear to triumph by twelve lengths.

“He did it nicely and jumped well,” stated Mullins. “It was very encouraging the way he quickened away when Ruby saw that Danny (on Sambremont) was on his tail.

“He won’t run over Christmas and we’ll look for something in January, maybe a Grade 2 in Leopoardstown (won by Vautour last year). He needs more match practice in the build-up to Cheltenham where the RSA will be his target.”

Mullins completed his third treble in just nine days when Avenir D’Une Vie, a beaten odds-on favourite on his debut in Punchestown, cruised to a smooth success in the bumper.

Also a third winner on the day for Gigginstown House Stud, Patrick Mullins’ mount, the 8/11 favourite, beat market rival Delegate (also in the maroon and white) comfortably by two and three quarter lengths.

Mullins explained: “We’ve always though he was top drawer. But he got injured last year and I was probably too easy on him before Punchestown. I came home fairly disappointed that day. He’ll stay in bumpers this season and, hopefully, he can win a second and a third.”

Eddie Harty completed a notable double, highlighted by the narrow victory of Robert Guiry’s home-bred Queens Wild in the Grade 3 Kerry Group Mares Novice Chase, another race rescheduled from Cork.

This event produced a thrilling finish as little more than a length and a half covered the first four home. Favourite Miss Dinamic held a narrow lead over the winner jumping the last, where Queen Wild made a potentially costly mistake. Perfect Woman burst through between horses to edge ahead before Adrian Heskin forced the winner up close home to triumph by a short-head.

Harty declared: “I like this Monday racing!” before explaining - “She had run well a couple of times and we thought it was worth looking for some black type, but this is a bonus. She jumped fantastic – the only mistake she made was at the last, but it was lucky she had the revs up and found a leg. Adrian says she’ll stay further, in this sort of company. So we might look at a mares chase in Thurles next month.”

The Harty double had been initiated when the well-backed Moon Over Germany turned over odds-on favourite Ball D’Arc in the opening Kells Maiden Hurdle. Davy Russell produced Philip Reynolds’ Germany gelding to lead before the final flight before stretching clear to score by almost five lengths.

“He jumped great and looked like he wanted it – he’s a terrier of a horse,” stated Harty. “He’s on the road to emulating his three-parts brother (Captain Cee Bee). He’ll step-up in grade in the New Year.”

Also in double form was Gordon Elliott, who passed the milestone of a hundred jumps winners in Ireland and Britain this season thanks to a double with Whistle Dixie and Nickname Exit, both in the Gigginstown colours.

The Bryan Cooper-ridden Whistle Dixie justified 1/3 favouritism in the mares maiden hurdle, bouncing back from a defeat in Galway in October. Her trainer admitted: “She wasn’t right in Galway and has only come right in the last fortnight. She’s not a bad mare and two and a half miles is what she wants.”

Topweight Nickname Exit, ridden by Jack Kennedy, provided Elliott with his second success, bolting-up by twenty-four lengths in the Dean Hill Handicap Chase, his trainer stating: “Jack gave him a good ride with the 5lb. off. He’s a horse that jumps well, and loves that heavy ground. We’ll look for another handicap for him over Christmas.”

The Yellow Furze Handicap Hurdle provided a memorable success for the Mooney family when 12/1 shot Augher Castle foiled Candle Island narrowly, providing Helen Mooney, formerly based with the late Dessie Hughes, with her first win for her trainer-father Paddy.

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