Barry Geraghty recorded his first four-timer in Ireland when stepping in for two winning spare rides for the irrepressible yard of Gordon Elliott and adding one each for Joseph O’Brien and Eric McNamara yesterday afternoon at his local track, in Fairyhouse.
The Meathman got off to a perfect start with a tactically astute ride aboard Elliott’s Woodford Island – the intended mount of Ruby Walsh - in the beginners’ chase which got proceedings underway.
There was plenty of late support for stable-companion Crest but that one’s race was over after a third mistake, at just the third fence, proved his downfall. Woodford Island can be difficult to win with but, Geraghty delivered him with a late effort to beat the easy-to-back Jimmy Two Times.
Hopes of a hat-trick for Tiger Sam were dashed early in race two as the favourite got in too tight to the first fence, and sent his rider out of the saddle. And that wasn’t the end of the drama as co-leader Is That Marmalade met the last all wrong and unseated Shane Crimin, leaving the strong-finishing Irish Bulletin to go clear under Geraghty.
“He’s a typical horse off the flat – he doesn’t have a real cut at his fences – but Barry gave him a great ride,” said winning trainer Eric McNamara. “He jumps adequately, but not with great zest. I think he’s a horse that needs to run over hurdles regularly enough to keep him sweet for fences.”
Trainer Joseph O’Brien may not have had his name on the race-card when Ivanovich Gorbatov won the 2016 Triumph Hurdle but early indications suggest he could right that wrong next March, as useful flat recruits Landofhopeandglory beat stablemate Big Ben in the juvenile maiden hurdle, to give Geraghty three consecutive winners.
The imposing gelding steadily warmed to his task of jumping, and quickened, going best, to the last hurdle. Following a fine jump across the final obstacle, he quickened clear to beat the eye-catching Big Ben.
“He was good, a little novicey early, but from halfway was getting the hang of it,” said Geraghty. “He has a good jump, and he came out of my hands at the one down from Ballyhack, which was a good sign that he was starting to measure them himself. He was very good from there on, and hopefully he can build on it.
“He did very well on the flat, and if he could transfer that level of form to hurdles there should be a bit of fun with him.”
He has been installed 12-1 favourite for the 2017 Triumph Hurdle, though 113-rated stablemate Housesofparliament is yet to play his hand.
Geraghty completed his four-timer aboard Elliott’s Fire In His Eyes in the novice hurdle. Another intended mount of Ruby Walsh, the strong-staying gelding challenged, under pressure, in the straight, and found plenty to deny the promising Mahler Ten.
“It’s my first time riding four winners in Ireland, but I have had a few in England,” confirmed Geraghty, before adding: “Gordon’s horses are flying, and I was always happy on Fire In His Eyes.
“He had a sloppy jump going away from the stands, but I was always competitive, and on their heels. And I felt when push would come to shove there was a bit in the locker. He wants a fence and a trip.”
Elliott, who is closing in on a century of winners at home this season, said: “I wasn’t happy when I saw the other Gigginstown horse (Balzac Turgot) declared in the race, as I thought he might just have a bit more speed than us, but we knew our lad would stay, and he’s very honest. He mightn’t be the quickest, but he finishes his races out well and is a really nice horse for the future.”
Of his current run of form, he added: “It’s unbelievable. We’ve had an incredible season - that’s 98 in Ireland. We’re having a great run, but we’ve got an easy couple of days now, and then get ready for Naas and Navan at the weekend.”
Edward O’Grady has a smart prospect in the shape of The West’s Awake, who was given an ultra-confident ride by Paul Townend, when getting up late to beat Elliott’s Sutton Manor in the two-mile maiden hurdle.
“He is racing the correct way now,” said O’Grady. “While I thought he was ready for a run, I was hoping he’d go well and come on nicely for it. The fact that he won is a bonus. He blew more than I had even anticipated, so he I probably won’t run him for a little while but I think, down the line, he’ll be a very nice horse.”
Waterford trainer Vincent Halley was on the mark when Tintown Robin and jockey Philip Enright battled gamely to see off Mossy Island and favourite Canny Tom in two-mile handicap hurdle, while the day’s action closed with Shane Donohoe and jockey Ricky Doyle combining to take the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle with Theo.
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