On a day when the John Berry-trained Cootamundra proved a shock winner of the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase, enthusiasts in Navan witnessed impressive victories by exciting novices and potential stars Apache Stronghold, Moyle Park and Ballycasey.
The latter pair proved the first two legs of a treble for champion trainer Willie Mullins (currently in Japan), rounded off when Shesafoxylady completed a hat-trick of bumper wins in the finale.
The featured Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase looked as competitive as ever on paper and produces a shock as Robbie Moran produced the John Berry-trained 25/1 shot Cootamundra with a well-timed challenge to see off local hope Mad Brian by a half-length, with gallant joint top-weight Colbert Station third and Rockyaboya fourth.
“He was always going to win a big one,” stated Berry, “And you have to ride him like that. He always travels well, but doesn’t always find a lot. Everything happened for him today. And the better ground was a big help, because he’s not very big.”
Berry nominated the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on December 27 as the next assignment for Cootamundra, a ten-year-old which was recording his first win over fences in the €100,000 ‘Troytown’, in the colours of the Turbine Syndicate, which includes Joe Moran, a key member of Berry’s team for many years.
The Grade 2 Monksfield Novice Hurdle lived up to its billing as the Noel Made-trained Apache Stronghold, confidently handled by Paul Carberry, proved too strong for front-running favourite Azorian, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old Carriganog third.
Apache Stronghold, successful on his hurdling bow at Punchestown, came through, travelling strongly, to lead at the second last flight and had the measure of Azorian when awkward at the final obstacle.
Soon back on an even keel, he eased clear to triumph by three lengths, prompting his trainer to comment: “It looked a very strong race beforehand and I would have been very happy to win it. But to win like that is a real bonus.
“He’s a smashing horse, more of a chaser for the future and certainly a horse to look forward to. Paul said he was always cantering and that he jumped great, much better than in Punchestown, expect for missing the last.”
Quizzed about the five-year-old’s best trip, he replied: “He won’t run over any short than two and half miles and will probably come back here for the Grade 1 next month (the Navan Novice Hurdle on December 15). Willie has a very strong team of novices but, at least we have something to take him on.”
Boylesports introduced Apache Stronghold at 16/1 for the Neptune at Cheltenham.
The same firm makes Moyle Park, first leg of the Mullins treble, 14/1 (from 20) for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices Hurdle following his smooth hurdling debut success over Kick On Boss and Wrath Of Titans in the opener.
Moyle Park’s jumping improved as the race developed and he drew clear to score, hard held, by six lengths, providing Ruby Walsh with the first leg of a double, before commenting: “Fair play to Patrick — he has done a lot of jumping on him over the last few days. The further he went today, the better he jumped.”
And Patrick said: “He jumped fine and the three hurdles he jumped when he was really racing in the straight, were his best. He’s in the Grade 1 here in a few weeks, but he might wait for a novice at Leopardstown over Christmas.”
The Mullins/Walsh partnership struck again when fencing debutant Ballycasey justified 4/6 favouritism in the beginners chase.
Racing over an inadequate trip (two miles and a furlong), he chased front-running Mount Colah and market rival Ned Buntline all the way, came through to lead between the last two fences and forged clear to triumph by eight lengths, earning a 14/1 quote (from 20) from Boylesporst for Cheltenham’s RSA Chase.
Patrick Mullins enthused: “He has schooled brilliantly and jumped fantastic out there. And he liked the bit of nice ground. We took a chance running him over that trip and Ruby said he was going as fast as he wanted all the way.”
“He’s a real stayer and will run in a novice over Christmas, in Leopardstown, or he could go to Limerick for the race Sir Des Champs won. And I might try to twist dad’s arm, to have a crack at the four-miler in Cheltenham!”
Few mares win three bumpers but Shesafoxylady, in the colours of the Supreme Horse Racing, notched her third success in that sphere when completing the Mullins treble in the listed ITBA Fillies Scheme Flat Race.
Patrick Mullins produced her to tackle and master Palm Sur inside the final furlong before stating: “She has always worked like a good filly. She has a good turn of foot, but sticks at it well and came up the hill well out there.”
Vics Canvas, trained by Dermot McLoughlin and ridden by Robbie Colgan, romped to an emphatic win in the Proudstown Handicap Hurdle, earning a possible tilt at the Pertemps qualified at Leopardstown over Christmas and prompting his trainer to explain: “He’s a grand little horse and both his ground and a nice weight today. It was a grand pot to win and Robbie said he couldn’t believe how well he was going coming down the hill to the second last.”
Earlier, Go Paddy Go, owned and trained in Moneygall by James Grace, followed-up a recent win at Clonmel when justifying favouritism under Mikey Fogarty in the Dunderry Handicap Hurdle.
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