Useful schooling exercise for Alpha Des Obeaux

The anticipated clash between two of last year’s leading staying hurdlers did not materialise at Thurles, but, in the absence of Prince Of Scars, the opening race proved a worthwhile schooling exercise for the Mouse Morris-trained Alpha Des Obeaux.

Useful schooling exercise for Alpha Des Obeaux

Bar being in tight at a couple of fences, he produced a smart round of jumping, and his class told late on as he asserted to beat Round Tower more comfortably than the length-and-a-half winning margin would indicate.

It was only his second time over fences, following a disappointing display at Tipperary, and he has quite some way to go to scale the heights in this sphere, but there was little wrong with this effort.

Outside of the favourite winning, it was an eventful race, with two fallers and second-favourite Kilkishen being brought down. Johnny Burke, who was aboard faller Total Recall, was stood down for the rest of the day. Bookmakers took the opinion Alpha Des Obeaux did nothing more than would have been expected, and left him unchanged, at 8-1, for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

“I don’t think he put a foot wrong. His jumping was perfect, but I think he just idled in front,” said Morris. “We have no plans, and there are limited options, but he needs to improve.”

Punters were keen to take on the experienced Zig Zag in the Devils Bit 3YO Maiden Hurdle, with strong word for Mega Fortune reflected in his starting price of 8-11.

However, Ashjan slowed markedly on the approach to the second hurdle, and the odds-on favourite jumped into the back of that rival, and went tumbling to the ground. Sadly, just moments before, at the same hurdle, third-favourite Hint Of Frost suffered a fatal fall.

That left the race at the mercy of the Joseph O’Brien-trained Zig Zag and, under a patient ride by Jody McGarvey, he led late to deny long-time leader Moorland.

There was better luck for Mega Fortune’s trainer, Gordon Elliott, in the He’llberemembered Hurdle, which went to the rapidly progressive De Plotting Shed. The conditions of the race were against him, resulting in the six-year-old having to concede weight to all of his rivals, but 7lb claimer Cian Collins was seen to great effect as he drove the heavily backed 13-8 favourite clear in the closing stages.

A runway winner on his return, at Navan, he was raised 9lbs, to 138, for that victory, and the lightly raced six-year-old is set for another hefty rise on the back of this success. He has the makings of a chaser, but his current form may have swayed Elliott to keep him over the smaller obstacles for the rest of the season.

Said Elliott: “I thought that was a good performance. He was wrong at the weights, but jumped very well and travelled well today. His owners are having loads of fun with him, and we might keep him over hurdles this year - there’s good prize money in those conditions hurdles.

“Cian gave him a very good ride. He’s claiming 7lbs, and will get plenty of rides off us this year.”

In the Thurles Handicap Chase Shouband landed a tidy gamble when, under a stealthy ride by Roger Loughran, the 6-1 chance (from 16-1) led early in the straight and found plenty for pressure to see off Rockshandy.

Rachael Blackmore had to be strong aboard the Shark Hanlon-trained Summer Storm, who battled well to justify favouritism, at 5-1, in the Premier County Handicap Hurdle.

For Sinead, trained by Mick Winters for popular nonagenarian Donie Sheahan, had plenty of supporters prior to the Leugh Handicap Hurdle, but the 4-1 favourite needed all of Mark Walsh’s urging to get home in front of Cloudy Morning.

“She’s very honest, and if she got 4lbs for today’s win, she might go to Wexford next time,” said Winters. “We needed this one to win for Donie, because we have a couple of nice young horses belonging to him.”

Jessica and Kate Harrington combined to take the bumper with the once-raced L’Andana. Nemean Lion kicked for home before the hometurn but had nothing left when the gambled-on Ken’s Well went by. But it was L’Andana who proved strongest of all, getting up late to secure victory.

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