Conna trainer Seamus Spillane tasted his biggest success to date, along with Donie McInerney in winning the 2m2f handicap chase with 9/1 chance Goulane Chosen at Gowran Park on Saturday last.
Coming home seven lengths to the good over second placed La Bella Vida, a strong finish ensured victory in the €50,000 event. According to Denis Spillane, the Galway Plate might feature on the horizon now following the Gowran success, “We might keep the Galway Plate in mind if the ground turned up soft. He’d go on a bit better ground but soft ground would help him.”
Meanwhile, Willie Mullins was responsible for five of the eight winners on the day and shared four of them with Paul Townend, who was riding for the first since his fall from Killultagh Vic at the Dublin Racing Festival at the beginning of last month.
The pair won the opening four-year-old maiden hurdle with 2/5 favourite Saglawy and followed up straight away when 3/1 chance Epicurus won the 2m maiden hurdle. Pairofbrowneyes, having his first start for Mullins, landed the €100,000 Toals.com Bookmakers Leinster National, while 1/5 favourite Up For Review took the beginners chase to give Townend the fifth four-timer of his career. Mullins went one better when taking the bumper with 1/2 favourite Derby, which was ridden by his son Patrick.
Shannon, County Clare trainer Michael McDonagh teamed up with Cathal Landers to win the 2m4f handicap hurdle with 13/2 chance Spancil Hill. The Tetratema Cup Hunters Chase was won by the Declan Queally-trained Fenno’s Storm. His son and namesake was on board the well-supported 3/1 chance.
Ruby Walsh Returns With A Winner
Four months after breaking his leg in a fall at Punchestown, Ruby Walsh made a triumphant return when winning on his only ride at Thurles on Thursday last. He landed the 2m maiden hurdle on the Willie Mullins-trained 11/8 favourite Lareena, which readily brushed aside her main market rival Awayinthewest to win by five lengths.
Mullins helped himself to a second winner when 1/2 favourite Voix Des Tiep won the bumper under Patrick Mullins.
It was a memorable afternoon for local trainer Martin Hassett who recorded the first double of his career. Andrew Lynch partnered 3/1 shot The Conditional to win the 2m7f maiden hurdle while Sean Flanagan, who became a father earlier in the week, won the handicap hurdle on 5/1 chance Mary Frances, for the Burnchurch-based trainer.
Fittingly, on International Women’s Day, Cloyne, County Cork trainer Denise O’Shea was among the winners as 9/1 chance Zipporah won the 2m handicap hurdle in the hands of Brian Hayes. Gordon Elliott also enjoyed two winners. He won the opening races on the card with 5/4 favourite Synopsis, ridden by Jack Kennedy, in the mares’ beginners’ chase and the Davy Russell-ridden Goodthynemilan, the 3/1 favourite, in the rated chase.
Former Cheltenham Festival Hero Jezki Wins At Leopardstown
Jezki, winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2014, recorded a 16th career success when landing the 2m2f hurdle at Leopardstown on Friday. Ridden by Barry Geraghty, the easy-to-back 11/10 favourite was the first of two winners for Jessica Harrington who also took the bumper with newcomer Sizing Pottsie, at odds of 11/4 under Kate Harrington.
Also in double form was Goresbridge trainer Tom Mullins, who took the 2m handicap hurdle with the Bryan Cooper-ridden 5/1 chance Grand Partner and the 2m5f handicap chase with 7/2 favourite Spider Web, which was ridden by Mark Enright.
The festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown are on the agenda for Pallasator, which ran out an impressive winner of the 2m4f maiden hurdle for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell. The novice chase went the way of 10/1 chance Crosshue Boy for County Wexford’s Sean Doyle and JJ Slevin, while the 12-year-old Witness Of Fashion won the opportunity handicap chase for Oldtown, County Dublin trainer Paddy Rooney and Trevor Ryan.
Martin Brassil and Mark Walsh took the beginners’ chase with 3/1 favourite Artic Pearl.
Mendelssohn Off On His Travels After Dundalk Success
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Mendelssohn will run in Dubai before a tilt at the Kentucky Derby, after his cosy success in the Listed 32Red Patton Stakes at Dundalk on Friday night. A 76th winner in Ireland for Ryan Moore, the even-money favourite led home a 1-2-3 for Ballydoyle with Threeandfourpence and Seahenge chasing him home. The victorious rider has now ridden Irish winners at Leopardstown, the Curragh, Navan, Naas and Dundalk.
Wayne Lordan continued his fine run of form at Dundalk since the turn of the year and he weighed in with a double. He got the session off to a flying start when taking the 5f handicap on 5/2 shot Plough Boy for Garristown trainer Garvan Donnelly and made it two wins when winning the 7f handicap on the Joseph O’Brien-trained 3/1 shot, Highly Approved.
Kilcock apprentice Robbie Downey is another on a good run and he partnered Rivellino, trained by Ado McGuinness, to win the 6f claiming race at odds of 4/11 favourite. McGuinness doubled up and gave 21-year-old amateur rider Nathan Condron, from Donnycarney, his first winner when 25/1 chance Pivot Bridge won the concluding 2m handicap.
Pat Smullen and Tracey Collins won the 7f fillies’ race with 7/2 chance Nivvo, while over the same distance, 5/1 chance Mr Ormsby won the handicap for Sheila Lavery and Gary Carroll. Sharjah gave Andrew Slattery his first winner at Dundalk in December and the young apprentice rider gained his second career success when partnering the eight-year-old, trained by his father Andy, to win the 12f handicap at odds of 9/1.
Champion Trainer Targets First Ryanair Gold Cup Success
The Willie Mullins duo of Footpad and Invitation Only head the entry for the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup on the opening day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival on Sunday, April 1. There are 37 entries, an increase of 13 on last year, for the €100,000 event for which Mullins is responsible for 18, as he bids for a first win in the race.
Gordon Elliott is one up on the champion trainer in this regard as he was successful with Realt Mor in 2013. He has made 10 entries, including his Grade 1-winning mare Shattered Love and the Grade 2 winners Monbeg Notorious, Jury Duty and Dounikos.
The Fairyhouse Easter Festival will go a long way to determining the destination of this season’s National Hunt trainers’ championship and both Mullins and Elliott will also be keen for success in the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle which has attracted an entry of 29 horses, up seven on 2017. Mullins again looks to hold the strongest hand in the €100,000 event and his contingent of 12 boasts Laurina, an odds-on favourite for next Thursday’s Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and leading juvenile hurdler Stormy Ireland.
Lackaneen Leader heads a trio of entries from Gordon Elliott, while High School Days and Alletrix have been entered by Henry De Bromhead and Jessica Harrington respectively.
Vroum Vroum Mag Retired To Stud
Star mare Vroum Vroum Mag, the winner of 14 of her 21 races, has been retired. The versatile nine-year-old’s name was missing from the list of acceptors for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at this week’s Cheltenham Festival and the champion trainer explained early last week, “Vroum Vroum Mag hadn’t been working well. She worked poorly on Tuesday and we’ve taken the decision to retire her.”
Sporting the colours of Susannah and Rich Ricci, Vroum Vroum Mag won 12 races, beginning with a beginners’ chase at Wexford in late 2014. She landed the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham two years ago and finished second to Apple’s Jade in the same contest last March. Her other Grade 1 victories were achieved in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle in 2016 and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, also in 2016.
Vroum Vroum Mag will now start a new career as a broodmare.
Andrew Shaw Appointed Senior National Hunt Handicapper
Newbridge native Andrew Shaw has been appointed to the role of Senior National Hunt Handicapper with the IHRB. Andrew has a wealth of experience in racing, having previously been part of the National Hunt handicapping team with the late Noel O’Brien. He joined the Turf Club in 1995 as a handicapper. Prior to joining the Turf Club, Andrew was a graduate of the Irish National Stud Course and has previous experience in the racing and breeding industries in the U.S.A. and Ireland. He was a stallion groom in Spendthrift Farm, Kentucky where he was responsible for the care of leading stallions such as Seattle Slew, Affirmed, J O Tobin and Raise a Native and then returned to Ireland to manage Brownstown Stud on The Curragh.
Commenting on his appointment, Andrew, said, “I am delighted to accept the role of Senior National Hunt Handicapper, although not in the circumstances I would have wished following the untimely departure of my late colleague and close friend Noel O’Brien. I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders within the racing industry at home and overseas and to the challenge of continuing the good work performed by my predecessor.”
Navan Welcomes New Sponsor
Navan Racecourse has announced a new sponsorship deal with Toals.com Bookmakers who will sponsor four races at the County Meath venue on Sunday. Commenting on the sponsorship, Navan Racecourse Manager, Peter Killeen, said: “It’s really terrific to see Toals.com coming on board and I am delighted that Toals recognises the benefit of sponsoring four races on the day. It is coming at the end of a week where the profile of Irish racing is raised, and all the top trainers and jockeys are everyone’s topic of conversation, some of whom I’m sure will be in attendance on the day.”
Dundalk – Friday, March 16 (first race 6.00); Down Royal – Saturday, March 17 (first race 2.10); Wexford – Saturday, March 18 (first race 1.55); Navan – Sunday, March 18 (first race 1.50); Limerick – Sunday, March 18 (first race 2.00); Limerick – Monday, March 19 (first race 2.15).