The Gordon Elliott-trained four-year-old Tocororo, in receipt of all the allowances, produced a spectacular front-running display to slam stable-companion Tiger Roll in the featured, Grade 3 Ballybrit Novice Chase in Galwaylast night.
Ridden by Jack Kennedy, Tocororo, keen early, jumped past Tiger Roll at the fourth and dominated the race from that point. Bryan Cooper, on Tiger Roll (his comeback ride, following his fall at the Festival here), closed the gap running into the dip. But the winner was never seriously threatened and stayed on up the hill to triumph by sixteen lengths.
“She was a little bit keen early on and a small bit novicy at times, but she was only having her third run over fences, “explained Kennedy, who partnered the winner as her burden of 9-12 is below Gigginstown’s retained rider Bryan Cooper’s riding weight.
He added: “I was confident going into the dip. So I steadied her for those two fences – they can be tricky – and, to be fair to her, she galloped away to the line.”
Trainer Elliott was in Perth, where he saddled a double with Mountain King and Blake Dean, both ridden by Richard Johnson.
Airlie Beach, trained for the Supreme Horse Racing Club by Willie Mullins, retained her unbeaten record (four from four) when making all to turn over stable-companion and marginal favourite Retour En France in the Deacy Gilligan Mares Hurdle.
Paul Townend, completing a double, dictated the pace on the six-year-old, tracked by the Ruby Walsh-ridden market-leader. But, when Townend asked his mount to stretch at the back of the second last flight, the outcome was soon sealed as Airlie Beach stayed on strongly up the hill to triumph, eased down, by five and a half lengths.
“That was very impressive,” declared Patrick Mullins representing his father. “She showed a great turn of foot off a strong pace and is improving with every run. On that evidence, she could win on the flat. But the plan is still the Grade 3 mares race in Down Royal in November (won by Mullins with Listen Dear last year). And, if she keeps improving, I’d say we’ll be looking at the mares novice in Cheltenham.”
He added: “It was probably a big ask for the second mare after two years off, giving the winner 5lb. She’s a big mare, more of a chaser and should improve plenty from today.”
Willie Mullins was expected to complete a double with odds-on favourite Borboleta in the mares bumper. But the 4/7 shot could finish only fourth behind The Birdie Crowe, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by her daughter Kate.
The winner, which was recording her second success, carries the colours of Bernadette Leigh, wife of trainer Peter Fahey, and will now be aimed at the new listed mares bumper at Gowran Park next month.
Local trainer Steve Mahon supplied a one-two in the opening O’Leary Insurances Maiden Hurdle as Cable (3/1) made virtually all and saw off stable-companion Ceide Fields (16/1) by two and a half lengths to initiate Paul Townend’s double.
But the outcome might have been very different had 4/5 favourite Mr.Antolini, challenging, narrowly ahead and looking the likely winner not crashed with Davy Russell at the final flight.
Winning trainer Mahon admitted: “His run here against Willie’s good mare (the ill-fated Muthaza) hood-winked us, that he’d win a bumper. But my original belief was right – he’s not a bumper horse. He’s won well today and will have a break. He jumps fences really well and will be more of a chaser, but he’s only four.”
Mahon completed a 43/1 double when He Rock’s, ridden by Keith Donoghue, outstayed his rivals in the Colm Quinn BMW handicap Chase, racing prominently throughout before beating Castle Falls convincingly by nine lengths
Davy Russell enjoyed better luck when Static Jack, another winner for Ellmarie Holden, landed the Nutritional Therapy Ireland Maiden Hurdle in convincing style, beating Sweet Home Chicago by six lengths.
“We were a bit concerned about the ground this morning and nearly stayed at home,” said Holden. “But he surprised us a bit. I have no plans for him he’s been on the go a while and might get a break.”
The John Ryan-trained Father Jed (14/1) came from off the pace under Danny Mullins to win the Anglo Printers Handicap Hurdle. And, described by his trainer as “a well-handicapped horse,” the five-year-old will now head to Listowel next week.
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