ON a day when veteran War Of Attrition again thrilled his legion of followers, it was Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins who took the honours at Navan yesterday, completing a fine treble with Kerb Appeal, Uimhiraceathair and Skakervilz.
The finish of the Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase proved the highlight of the day as 4/6 shot Uimhiraceathair and Telenor treated onlookers to a titanic tussle from the final fence after a gruelling three miles in very testing ground.
And neither the judge nor modern technology could separate the two brave novices, a dead-heat being declared - to the relief of connections of both horses.
Telenor, bouncing back from a dismal run at Naas when he swallowed his tongue, made most of the running and fought grimly in the closing stages as Ruby Walsh launched a powerful late challenge.
Afterwards, Jim Dreaper, trainer of Telenor, had no firm plans for his charge, describing his horse as “a slow burner, a typical old-fashioned chaser” while expressing the hope that he might emulate stable-companion Notre Pere some day.
Meanwhile, Willie Mullins stated: “Uimhiraceathair is learning all the time, in terms of his jumping. I’m delighted with today’s effort and because he improved for better ground last spring, I expect him to do the same this year.”
Mullins confirmed Uimhiraceathair an intended runner in the RSA Novice Chase at Cheltenham for which Boylesports make him a 20/1 shot.
The Arkle will be the target for Shakervilz following his battling victory over Major Finnegan and Osana in the Grade 2 Flyingbolt Novice Chase.
Mullins expressed his delight: “Ruby asked him every possible question and he kept answering. We always considered him a stayer but his jumping is so accurate that it helps him over the shorter trip. His owner is away, but I’m sure he’ll be keen to travel to Cheltenham and he’ll run in the Arkle, along with Sports Line.”
After Ruby Walsh received some momentary abuse from a member of the public beside the winner’s enclosure, Mullins said: “Ruby rides seven winners for the weekend and he still gets abused !”
The Mullins/Walsh treble was initiated when Kerb Appeal, a wide-margin bumper winner over course and distance last time, made a successful start to his jumping career in the opening maiden hurdle, beating Noel Meade’s second-string Jim Bowie readily by four and a half lengths.
Mullins explained: “He jumped well and should improve for a step-up in trip. I think he’ll be better on better ground.”
The winning trainer nominated the Grade 2 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles (February 25) as Kerb Appeal’s next assignment while acknowledging the gelding’s lucky owners, the Olde Crowbars Syndicate, whose only other horses See Just There and Fiveforthree have also enjoyed plenty of success.
Even at the age of eleven, 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor War Of Attrition retains plenty of his ability and an appetite for the challenge, a point he proved emphatically when landing the Grade 2 Ladbrokes.com Boyne Hurdle.
The Mouse Morris-trained veteran recorded a heart-warming win in the Galmoy Hurdle (also Grade 2) at Gowran Park last month and followed-up here, making all under a positive ride by Davy Russell before digging deep in the closing stages to keep 11/10 favourite Mourad at bay by a head.
Morris and owner Michael O’Leary were clearly delighted by the old horse’s display, the winning trainer stating: “That was a good performance,” before outlining plans for his stable star, whose career was disrupted by injury.
“This is his last season and we’re taking it step by step with him. Everything depends on how he is, staring with how he is in the morning. He’s in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham which, according to the betting, is a one-horse race at this stage.
“The Grand National has been his target all season and I’ll be very keen to see what weight he gets on Tuesday. We’ll leave all options open, though. He might even run in both, why not?”
“That’s a great result,” declared trainer Philip Rothwell after Ballyburke (Padraig Roche), his first runner for J P McManus, had run out a convincing eight lengths winner of the Ladbrokes Cheltenham Bumper Series Pro-Am Flat Race.
Rothwell described himself as “thrilled” before explaining: “He was a bit unlucky first time at Limerick, racing on the outside around the inside track. I spoke to Frank Berry afterwards and told him I liked the horse. He was sold ten days ago and this is a great start with my first runner for Mr McManus.
“He’s a good horse, from the same family as Pandorama and I rate him next year’s horse, although I’ll have to discuss plans for him.”
Lucky William’s victory in the Trim Maiden Hurdle signalled a return to form by Tommy Cooper’s string and provided the Tralee-based trainer with a welcome boost, “We’ve had a horrible time since Christmas but they’re coming back to form,” said Cooper.
Ridden by David Casey, Lucky William proved too strong for favourite Cadspeed, prompting Cooper to add: “This fellow has been a bit tricky in the past. But I think he’s sorted. David said he ran flat at Leopardstown and needed freshening up so we gave him three weeks off. He’ll improve from today and will probably go for the Purcell (the Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles on February 24). He should get two and a half miles well, once be gets a decent pace.”
Arthur Moore, who enjoyed a welcome change of luck with Organisedconfusion at Gowran Park on Saturday (his first winner since Grand Lahou on New Year’s Day), struck again when Lastoftheleaders justified strong support (5/1 to 7/2) in the Navan Racecourse Handicap Hurdle.
Opinion was divided, but the strapping seven-year-old looked a fortunate winner after Marlay Park, a length in front, stumbled an unseated Danny Mullins a few strides after landing safely over the final flight.
Moore said of the Davy Russell-ridden winner: “He was due that. He’s a bit awkward at his hurdles and I felt this track would suit him. He’s built like a chaser and we won’t waste any more time hurdling, although it was nice to pick up a hurdle along the way.”
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