Cheltenham takes centre stage – Week 11
Week 11 11th-17th March 2013
Last week was all about Cheltenham, the highs and the lows all shared in some way or another by locals, with 14 Irish trained winners it was a great festival. Local highlights follow…
Sweeney And Salsify Take Dramatic Foxhunters
It was all about two Conna trained and ridden horses in the Christie’s Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham. The Rodger Sweeney trained Salsify (2/1f), ridden by Colman Sweeney will be seen by many as a very fortunate winner, becoming the first dual winner of the race since Earthmover in 1998 and 2004. But that wasn’t the whole story of this year’s renewal.
Oscar Delta (20/1), trained by Jimmy Mangan and ridden by daughter Jane, will go down in the history books as the unluckiest loser since Dun Gay Lass and Martin Claxton were deprived of victory, when an iron leather broke on the run-in back in 1991. Oscar Delta, given a polished ride by Mangan, jumped the last six lengths clear of Salsify and then disaster struck.
On first impression it looked like Mangan’s mount went to duck out but on closer inspection the horse seemed to just follow the rail round before realising it was taped off to prevent horses going out on another circuit. Jinking back in on sight of the tape, Oscar Delta gave Mangan little chance of staying on board.
This left the way clear for Salsify and Sweeney to take the spoils. Taking nothing away from Rodger Sweeney and Salsify who must now be considered one of the great hunter chasers of this or any other time. Colman Sweeney also secured his third Foxhunters win, a major feat in itself for any amateur.
Sweeney went on to say, “I wouldn’t have got there. He can be very, very keen. I dropped him right out and when I jumped into it he started taking me there. What this fella does is he rallies and he stays”.
Jane Mangan said, “He just thought we were going for another circuit, then he jinked, corrected himself and I wasn’t ready”.
Condon Adds Flare To Festival Tally
Fermoy native jockey, Davy Condon took the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle riding Flaxen Flare for trainer Gordon Elliott. Again, first time blinkers were applied to this horse who travelled supremely strongly throughout the race. Held up towards the rear Condon’s mount made steady headway until a mistake four out. But going to two out it was clear to all that Flaxen Flare had the race in safe keeping and kicking on to the last hurdle, Condon just had to push out his mount for a four and a half length win.
Going off at the unfancied odds of 25/1, this son of Windsor Knot was tried in Grade 1 company last time out but didn’t jump so well. Having won on the flat with a visor, it was decided to try blinkers which made all the difference. He will now be possibly aimed at one of the top juvenile hurdle races at either Aintree or Punchestown.
Elliott said, “I was delighted with his run the first day but the next two he was disappointing. I was panicking as I thought he went on too soon.”
McLernon Counts His Blessings With Holywell
Liscarroll jump jockey, Richie McLernon entered the Cheltenham winners enclosure on Holywell for Jonjo O’Neill in the Pertemps final. Going to post, Holywell (25/1) would of been considered by many to be the stable’s second string behind Shutthefrontdoor and Tony McCoy. After a string of seconds, Holywell had been raised 21Lbs in the weights without winning.
But McLernon’s suggestion of applying blinkers to this son of Goldwell after his latest defeat seemed to work the oracle. Tracking the leaders early on, Holywell travelled strongly when asked to go into second place three hurdles from home. Jumping the second last, McLernon looked to be tanking along and with the long run to the last hurdle taken in his stride, Holywell stayed on well up the hill for a one and a half length win from Captain Sunshine, with Jetson back in third.
On pulling up, McLernon’s first thought was to dedicate the win to jockey Campell Gillies who sadly passed away last summer while on holiday. McLernon and Gillies had shared their first Cheltenham Festival success last year.
McLernon went on to say, “The blinkers helped him travel. Holywell jumped really well, and battled all the way to the line. It’s a long way home when you’re in front, but he’s tough.”
McLernon went on to ride another winner in the shape of Upswing (11/10f) for O’Neill at Carlisle last Sunday.
Best Of The Rest
With Cheltenham taking up most of this column, I can only give short mention to other local winners this week. Fermoy native trainer David O’Meara had four winners on the all weather last week. The highlight of which was a treble on Saturday night last at Wolverhampton with Frontier Fighter (5/4f, 10/11) who won earlier in the week, Classic Colori (4/6f) and Hiddon Coin (Evs f). This was O’Meara’s 18th winner from just 54 runners on the all weather this season.
Kilworth native Martin Lane recorded a double at Kempton Park last week with both horses Pick A Little (16/1) and Midnight Sequel (3/1), trained by Michael Blake.
Killeagh jockey Liam Keniry added two winners to his tally, when again winning on Misleading Promise (5/4f) for trainer John Butler at Southwell. He followed this up with a winner for trainer Mark Usher on Black Truffle (5/1) at Lingfield last Sunday. This was Keniry’s 15th winner of the season.
A new addition to the local jump jockey ranks in the UK is Charleville native, Conor Ring who rode two winners last week. He rode Party Rock (8/11f) for trainer Jennie Candlish to win at Towcester and rode Still Believing (20/1) for his boss, Evan Williams to win at Ffos Las last Saturday. Conor is a name for the future and he is based in Wales with Williams. Still Believing was his fifth winner in total and fourth this season.
A special mention to Rockmills native Ed Vaughan whose Robin Hoods Bay contested the Group 3 Winter Derby at Lingfield last Saturday, finishing a gallant second in an ultra competitive race. He is a credit to all concerned.
I would also like to wish jockey John Thomas McNamara a full recovery from his bad fall at Cheltenham, where he was taken away by helicopter in an induced coma having broken two vertebrae in his neck. After an operation he is now in a stable condition and fingers crossed no damage is done to his spine. It brings everything into perspective.