Teenage sensation Jack Kennedy, who has not yet turned seventeen, registered his first wins as a 3lb. claimer when completing a hard-earned double on Steamboat Bill and Finea in Down Royal yesterday.
Kennedy, who has been race-riding for just nine months, lost his 5lb. claim when scoring on Woodford Island in Navan recently and he was seen at his strongest here when getting 5/4 favourite Steamboat Bill a battling, half-length winner over Stowaway Shark in the opening Sean Graham Bookmaker Maiden Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s charge needed plenty of driving from Kennedy, as the winning trainer acknowledged: “Jack was good and strong on him – he kept pushing and rowing away and he said the horse hated the ground. So I’d say we’ll give him a break and wait for some better ground. A step-up in trip should help him.”
Kennedy completed his double when Finea, trained in County Armagh by Keith Watson, got the better of front-running top-weight Dr Moloney by a length and a half in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase.
The winning trainer was represented by his son Marshall, who explained: “Two miles is far as he wants on that ground and we’ve been running him over the wrong trip.
“He’ll be kept busy and we won’t run him again over two and a half or further until the ground dries out.
“There’s another ‘Martinstown’ race for him in Downpatrick, or he could go to Clonmel next.”
The Jim Dreaper-trained Venitien De Mai, in the familiar Potts colours, made it third-time-lucky over fences when justifying 11/8 favouritism in the Rodney Watson Memorial Beginners Chase.
The seven-year-old was ridden by Jamie Codd deputising for the Potts’ retained rider Jonathan Burke, who is currently injured.
Venitien De Mai asserted on the run-in to beat Futuramic by two and a half lengths, prompting Dreaper to comment: “He deserved to win one, because he’s been very consistent.
“He’s always been a good jumper, but the ground out there is so deep that it looked as if he was reaching for his fences.
“He looks like he’ll stay, so we might go three miles with him next.”
Noel Meade explained: “She’s very small and weak and I thought the ground might catch her out, but I was pretty hopeful,” after debutante She’s A Star laded the four-year-old bumper in convincing style under Nina Carberry.
“Nina was brilliant on her,” added, Meade, “It looked as if she stole it. We’ll probably look for a winners’ bumper for the filly.”
Carrying a 6lb. penalty but officially 4lb. ‘well-in’ following a win at Fairyhouse last Saturday, Coolaghknock Glebe followed-up for J P McManus, Christy Roche and Alan Crowe in the Bet With The Tote Handicap Hurdle.
Following his convincing, two and three-quarter lengths win over Tyrone Tiger, Crowe stated: “It’s a good job by Christy to turn him out again so quickly. He jumped super and did it well.
“You’d have to hope that there might be a good one in him when he goes back over fences.”
Jeremy Kyle is believed to be one of the frontrunners to present ITV’s racing coverage from next year.
ITV is keen to distance itself from any speculation concerning the new role, with a shortlist of candidates unlikely to be established until the summer at the earliest, but Kyle has been described by a source close to the television presenter as “an interesting choice”.
Kyle, 50, has had strong links with ITV since the Jeremy Kyle Show was first aired in 2005.
He is also a renowned fan of the sport, having featured on Racing UK during all four days of last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and partly owns several horses.
At The Races presenter Matt Chapman and Racing UK’s Oli Bell are also thought to be on ITV’s radar for the high-profile role.
Last year’s winner Many Clouds features among 126 entries for the Crabbie’s Grand National on April 9, with the Aintree feature attracting the highest number of entries since 2008.
Oliver Sherwood’s stable star chased home Hennessy Gold Cup winner Smad Place at Cheltenham at the weekend and will be attempting to emulate Red Rum, who was the last horse to win back-to-back Nationals in 1973-74.
Dr Richard Newland’s 2014 winner Pineau De Re, who became the first horse since 2002 hero Bindaree to win another contest after taking the famous race when scoring over hurdles recently, is also on the list.
Double Seven was sent off favourite for the National in 2014 and eventually finished third, but he subsequently missed the entire 2014-15 season.
Martin Brassil’s charge returned to action at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve and has since run again over hurdles at that track last month.
“Double Seven is grand,” said Brassil, who won the race in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde.
“He’s had the two runs over hurdles, but it is hard to know what to make of them because he is not a soft ground horse.
“We are taking it one step at a time at the moment and we won’t really know where we are until he runs in a race when the conditions are right for him. He wants nice ground.
“I’m not sure what we are going to do between now and Aintree. He could have a run over fences, but we will see how he is.”
Five of the first six horses home last year are entered again with runner-up Saint Are (Tom George), fourth Alvarado (Fergal O’Brien), fifth Shutthefrontdoor (Jonjo O’Neill) and sixth Royale Knight (Newland) all engaged.
Willie Mullins has entered seven, including Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Don Poli and dual Festival winner Sir Des Champs.
Ted Walsh has two contenders in Seabass, who finished third in the race in 2012 for Katie Walsh, and the classy Foxrock, while Gordon Elliott’s entry is spearheaded by Ucello Conti and Causes of Causes.
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