Exciting six-year-old Bob Olinger lived up to expectations when justifying 6/4 favouritism in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle at Wednesday’s rescheduled meeting in Naas.
Building on an impressive maiden success in Navan, Henry de Bromhead’s charge raced close to the pace under Rachael Blackmore, moved menacingly to challenge before the second last and, having edged past Blue Lord, (keen throughout for Paul Townend) the Sholokhov gelding forged clear on the run-in to score by six and a half lengths, with long-time leader Gabynako back in third.
Significantly, Bob Olinger provided Brian Acheson of Robcour with a first Grade 1 success, an achievement acknowledged by the winning rider: “This was his big test, but he was more professional today and just a really nice horse. It’s brilliant to get a Grade 1 winner for Brian Acheson.”
She explained: “He’s straight-forward, a simple horse to ride. Paul’s horse (Blue Lord) was keen beside me all the way, but my horse was nice and relaxed, and I was happy most of the way. He jumped better today, particularly in the latter part of the race and, when I asked him he picked up well and put the race to bed.
“Everyone who has been involved with him has always thought he was a very nice horse – Pat Doyle, who won a point-to-point with him, Davy Roche who rides him at home all the time and Patrick Mullins who won a bumper on him in Gowran.”
Quizzed about the future, and whether the Ballymore or Albert Bartlett is his likely target at Cheltenham, Blackmore responded: “He’s not a sharp, Champion Hurdle horse although I wouldn’t rule out two miles for him. Two and a half is ideal at the moment and, in the future, he’s going to be one for fences and longer trips.”
Having his third run over fences and making his handicap debut the Gigginstown-owned Epson Du Houx had earlier initiated a double for de Bromhead and Blackmore when, 9/4 favourite, he bolted-up in the two-mile Eastcoast Seafood & Gouldings Hardware Handicap Chase.
While Bob Olinger took the big-race honours, the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene proved equally impressive when seeing off Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness (Rachael Blackmore) in the two-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase.
Paul Townend adopted front-running tactics, successful on his chase debut in Gowran Park and Energumene again jumped impeccably, closely followed all the way by his market rival. Energumene, the 10/11 favourite, asserted between the last two fences before stretching clear to win by eight and a half lengths, with the winner’s stable-companion Blackbow a never threatening and distant third.
“That was very impressive,” declared Mullins. “He loved jumping and that was a key factor. The ground is very testing and Paul gave him a breather turning for home before he picked-up again. I was very taken with him.”
He explained: “I brought him back to two miles to see how effective he’d be. After this, I’d imagine he’ll be going down the two-mile route. The (Grade 1) Arkle at Leopardstown next month looks the place to go.”
Mullins completed a double when 9/4 favourite Belle Metal, a Soldier Of Fortune filly, under a fine front-running ride by Jody Townend, made every yard of the running for a wide-margin victory for the Leinster Partnership in the Rushe’s Supervalu Pro-Am Flat Race, the first four-year-old bumper of 2021.
Dual bumper-winner On Eagles Wings provided the Hyde/Swan family with a notable success in the INH Stallion Owners Maiden Hurdle, proving too strong on the run-in for the Mullins runner Captain Kangaroo.
“He’s a nice horse and will make an even better chaser,” said winning trainer Timmy Hyde, while multiple champion Charlie Swan, proud father of winning rider Harry (18), who was registering his fourth win, and son-in-law of the trainer, acknowledged: “Timmy, myself and, now, Harry have all won on our first ride over hurdles.”
In double form at Fairyhouse on Tuesday, Joseph O’Brien and J J Slevin struck again with 4/7 favourite Miss Pernickety, owned by the trainer’s sister Sarah, in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase. But odds-on backers had plenty of anxious moments as the daughter of Jeremy made a few mistakes and appeared to run in snatches before heading front-running New Money at the second last and forging clear on the run-in to triumph by five and a half lengths. Declan Queally saddled well-backed 5/1 shot Uisce Solas to land the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle under Conor McNamara,