Absent for two years since winning a novice hurdle at the 2012 Punchestown Festival, Arvika Ligeonniere made a hugely impressive return to action and chasing debut in the Punchestown For Events Beginners Chase at Punchestown yesterday.
The classy seven-year-old, in the Ricci colours, produced an impeccable display of jumping (with the exception of a minor mistake at the third last) and romped home, hard held by Ruby Walsh, 13 lengths clear of nearest rival Tom Horn.
It was the performance of an exciting novice in a race won back in 2009 by Sizing Europe.
Mullins was understandably delighted by such a tremendous performance from the French-bred gelding, which has been dogged by leg trouble. “He was electric. He’s a super jumper and, when he met a fence wrong, as he did at the third last, he picked up. For a big horse, he’s so agile in front of a fence.”
And Mullins admitted: “I doubt he’ll run again. But he’s a horse to look forward to next season, once we can keep him right.”
Paddy Power reacted to Arvika Ligeonniere’s performance by making him 20/1 for the 2013 Arkle at Cheltenham.
Awarded the Racing Post-sponsored Point-to-Point bumper in the Stewards’ Room at Fairyhouse and carrying the Gigginstown House Stud colours for the first time, Balnaslow made all to justify 1/6 favouritism in the opening Dobbins Food Hall Maiden Hurdle, initiating a double for Willie Mullins.
The Presenting gelding, ridden by Davy Russell, jumped enthusiastically, in a style similar to his stable-companion Sir Des Champs, and beat Captain Lob readily by a length and a quarter.
Mullins suggested: “We might keep him going, if the ground stays right, and try to win another over hurdles before he goes out to grass. He’s a natural jumper and jumps fences better than hurdles. So he’ll be going novice chasing after his summer break.”
Droim Toll, ridden by Davy Condon, captured the marathon Breakfast With Hector On 2FM Handicap Chase for trainer Donie Hassett, surviving a mistake at the second last before powering clear to beat the enigmatic Smoking Aces by almost five lengths.
The winner, a dour stayer, relished every yard of the three miles and six furlongs.
Winner of the race two years ago, On The Fringe regained the Racing Post Champion Hunters Chase crown when recording a facile win under John Thomas McNamara in an event deferred from the Festival meeting.
The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old jumped into the lead five fences from home and forged clear in the closing stages to beat longshot That Beats Banaher by nine lengths.
Earlier, the KFM Hunters Chase (for the Bishopscourt Cup), race confined to horses owned by farmers from the local Kildare Hunt area, saw favourite Mr Goodenough romp home a for owner/trainer/breeder John Robinson.
Roger Quinlan gave the 11/10 favourite, winner of the Tetratema at Gowran Park last time, a confident ride, taking his time before moving through to challenge four from home. The eight-year-old jumped into the lead briefly at that stage and asserted from the next, before staying on strongly to beat Brave Eva by six and a half lengths.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Operating, runner-up in his two previous starts, became the fifth successful favourite on the night when landing the bumper, after a good tussle with Jennies Jewel and Gee Gee Robyn and then survived a Stewards Enquiry, having hung left inside the final furlong.
In the enquiry, the Stewards were satisfied that, although interference had taken place, Operating has not improved his finishing position.
“When one wins, they all seem to win,” commented trainer John Carr (successful with Turnonthegas at Ballnirobe last week) after Dunroe Boy, ridden by Paul Townend, coasted to a smooth, seven-and-a-half lengths victory over Tornant in the Tote Sports Lounge Handicap Hurdle.
* Willie Mullins schooled a number of horses, over fences, after racing, including dual Grade 1 bumper-winner Champagne Fever and Mikael D’Haguenet.
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