Twenty-four hours after guiding My Tent Or Yours to a smooth success in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, Tony McCoy partnered odds-on favourite Jezki to victory in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, one of three Grade 1 events on yesterday’s card in Fairyhouse.
The 4/6 favourite, like My Tent Or Yours owned by JP McManus, came from off the pace to master Diakali between the last two flights before fluffing the last and being merely driven out by McCoy to beat Zaidpour (winner of this race last year) by a length and threequarters, with Diakali, which enjoyed a clear lead for most of the way, a close third.
Jezki was racing beyond two miles for the first time and, while registering his fourth success at Grade 1 level, could not be described as an impressive winner. But he got the job done, recording his seventh win over hurdles, and remains an 8/1 shot generally for the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Winning trainer Jessica Harrington explained: “AP was very pleased with him and didn’t hit him with his stick — he just gave him a slap down the shoulder going to the last. He said he pricked his ears ten strides before the last and was looking around and not concentrating.”
“At least today’s race proves that he stays two and a half miles. And he’s definitely better going left-handed. He’s more relaxed this year and dropped the bridle and relaxed well today.
“When a horse goes off in front like that, it’s not good for the nerves. But he came through easily, had a good look around, but won well in the finish.”
Harrington was non-committal about plans for Jezki, commenting: “We’ll let the dust settle on this before we make plans. But he’s in the two-miler (Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown) at Christmas.”
Out of luck in the Hatton’s Grace on Rule The World (fourth) and prevented from riding runner-up Fantastic Gold in the mares chase due to a nose-bleed, champion-jockey Davy Russell had earlier celebrated his return to action, after suspension, by landing the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase on the Gordon Elliott-trained favourite Don Cossack.
Off the bridle with four fences to jump, the massively-built six-year-old had to dig deep to get the better of Galway Plate winner Carlingford Lough by a length and three-quarters.
The winning rider stated: “He’s never been soft, only a bit childish. But this should make a man of him. He jumped great and I was surprised the way he picked up going to the last. He still has to mature and strengthen to be a real three-miler.”
Elliott echoed those comments: “He’s not an out-and-out three-miler and his Punchestown run took the edge off him. But he jumped and battled and was good today.
“We’ll definitely skip Leopardstown at Christmas and wait for the Grade 2 there at the end of January (the Grade 2 Boylesports.com Novice Chase).”
The Tullow Tank repaid the supplementary entry fee of €7,500 paid by owner Barry Connell on Tuesday when landing the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at the expense of Willie Mullins’ three runners, which filled second, third and fourth positions.
A second Grade 1 winner for Danny Mullins in the colours of his boss, The Tullow Tank challenged at the final flight and dug deep to triumph by a half-length, with Arctic Fire third and favourite Alonso fourth.
“He’s a good horse and proved it today,” declared delighted trainer Philip Fenton. “He gives ever ounce in his races and Danny was very good on him. He jumped some of his hurdles pretty big, almost like fences.”
Fenton confirmed: “We’ll take it one step at a time with him and he’ll probably go to Leopardstown, either at Christmas or for the Deloitte in February. Going right-handed is a big plus for him, so we’ll have a fair idea about future plans after Leopardstown. I’m sure Barry would love to go to Cheltenham with him, but there’s always Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”
Philip Fenton completed a memorable double when Value At Risk, runner-up to Very Wood at Punchestown in his only previous start, made all under Richie Kiely to beat Dermot Weld’s Windsor Park in the bumper.
“He’s a grand stamp of a horse, one for the future,” enthused Fenton in the winner’s enclosure. “He’s only four and should improve with time. He might go for the winners bumper at Leopardstown at Christmas, if it doesn’t come too soon, and won’t go hurdling until next season.”
The Willie Mullins-trained Analifet enhanced her reputation as the best juvenile hurdler seen in Ireland this season when justifying 30/100 favouritism in the Grade 3 Bar One Racing 3-Y-0 Hurdle.
Soon in front under Ruby Walsh, the French-bred filly was always in command and coasted home a smooth six-and-a-half lengths winner from stable-companion Noble Inn.
“It was a good performance and I’m delighted with her,” said Mullins. “Quick ground and a quick time. And she’s doing everything right, like a good mare.”
Mullins confirmed the Grade juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown on St. Stephen’s Day as Analifet’s next target while bookmaker reaction to this impressive victory saw Boylesports cut her to 8/1 favourite (from 16) for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham while Paddy Power offer 12/1 (from 14).
In the handicap action, in-form Pat Fahy saddled Thelobstercatcher to land the marathon Bar One Racing Porterstown Handicap Chase in the hands of David Casey.
Fahy said: “He needs those big fences and we waited for a big pot to try blinkers. He was so sweet today and so comfortable through the race. I’d love to have a crack at some of the other big handicaps, if he gets into them, the likes of the ‘Thyestes and Grand National Trial in Punchestown, or come back here at Easter.”
And the Terence O’Brien-trained She’s Got Grit lived up to her name when beating Fantastic Gold in the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Handicap Chase, prompting her rider Adrian Heskin to explain, “They went no gallop, so I had to go on before the straight. I knew she stays well and she’s tough.”
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