Mitchouka swoops late to grab the glory at Leopardstown

Mitchouka swoops late to grab the glory at Leopardstown

Mitchouka and jockey Ricky Doyle in the parade ring after winning The TRI Equestrian Handicap Chase at Leopardstown Racecourse. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

On a day not without its drama, there was a thrilling finish to the feature race, the TRI Equestrian Handicap Chase, which went to the Gearoid O’Loughlin-trained and Ricky Doyle-ridden Mitchouka.

Paul Townend had dictated from the outset aboard Livelovelaugh and looked to have set perfect fractions. He led over the last and traded at 1-16 in running but Doyle never gave up and, with one late lunge, his mount got up in the final strides to snatch victory from his fellow joint favourite, with Valdieu back in third.

There seems not to be many dull moments in Irish racing these days and a meeting which looked to be moving along without incident took a dramatic turn when a horse took the wrong course when clear approaching the turn for home in the TRI Equestrian Superstore & Café Bumper.

Aaron Fahey’s mount, Lake Winnipesaukee, had raced clear from an early stage and as the race progressed it looked increasingly unlikely that he would be picked up. The 25-1 chance traded shorter than 11-10 on the exchanges before erroneously taking the chase course rather than the flat track on the turn for home.

In the subsequent stewards’ enquiry, Fahey reported that his “saddle had slipped forward, that his mount had been too strong to ride and through a lack of energy he was unable to steer his mount around the final bend on the correct course.”

However, the stewards were of the opinion Fahey had “been negligent by his misjudgement of the correct course” and therefore failed to attain his best possible placing, for which they suspended him for 14 days.

Victory went to Dark Raven, ridden by Patrick Mullins for his father, Willie. Related to 11-time winner Ted Veale, and also bred by John Mulcahy, the four-year-old took the lead early in the straight and raced home clear of another promising newcomer, Silar Marner.

Said winning rider Patrick Mullins: “Passing the last ditch, I thought ‘we’re not going to get to him,’ but I thought when we were going past the second-last fence, ‘no, we’ll get to him alright.’”

Of the winner, he added: “He’s in the sales race in Fairyhouse and Willie was keen to get a run so that he could avoid the ballot – if you finish in the first four or five, you avoid the ballot. That was the main objective, and to win was a bonus.”

The win completed a double for the trainer, for whom Royal Illusion landed the odds in the TRM Equine Nutrition Mares’ Maiden Hurdle. The nine-year-old, who won the 2019 Irish Cesarewitch, was having just her second outing over timber and when Paul Townend sent her on at the second-last, she stretched away late on to win readily.

Francis Casey, who was amongst the winners on Saturday at Navan, took the opening race on Sunday with the well-backed Max Flamingo. Denis O’Regan timed his challenge to hit the front going to the last and his mount kept on well to win a shade cosily.

In the absence of Wonder Laish, there was little resistance to the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite in the Seamus Meade Hurdle, and he duly got the job done, though it would be a stretch to call it an impressive display, particularly in the jumping department.

Having contested a Grade 1 on his previous start, this was a huge drop in class and he was, ultimately, far too good for his two rivals. He remains a fine prospect but will need to be more professional when stepping back into the big league.

She’s Commanche made light of her mark of 95 in the Anton O’Toole Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

Quite lightly raced for her age, the Adrian Murray-trained seven-year-old moved up easily to challenge early in the homestraight. Sean Flanagan sent her on going to the last, and she quickened away in great style to win with a considerable amount in hand.

Steer Clear made it two win from three starts this season with a runaway success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase. Mark Walsh made virtually all the running aboard Padraig Roche’s runner and his mount responded to the merest request for further effort by coasting home seven clear of Hesamanofhisword.

  • Leading Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender Thedevilscoachman will miss Cheltenham with trainer Noel Meade opting to keep the exciting five-year-old on home soil for the Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals.

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