Champion trainer Willie Mullins took centre stage on Saturday’s reduced card at Gowran Park, saddling a double that was highlighted by the win of So Young in the featured Grade 2 Red Mills Trial Hurdle. The seven-year-old may have been the less favoured of Mullins’ two runners, but he didn’t know that and he stayed on strongly to beat his stable mate Zaidpour by six lengths under David Casey. Mullins had initiated his brace in the opening Shantou at Burgage Stud Maiden Hurdle, saddling Djakadam to record an all-the-way 14 lengths victory under Paul Townend.
Foley In Double Form At Dundalk
Shane Foley took centre stage at Dundalk on Friday evening, securing a double that included the featured Crowne Plaza leading jockey and trainer championship race on the Jessica Harrington-trained Steps To Freedom. The seven-year-old was having his prep race for the Cheltenham Festival and ran out the impressive 4½ lengths winner. That completed Foley’s brace as he had already ridden the Mick Halford-trained Alvar to win the first division of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Race & Stay Handicap by a neck.
It was also a memorable night for champion trainer Aidan O’Brien’s 16-year-old daughter Ana, with her riding her first winner on her father’s Fairylike in the Irish Stablestaff Association Awards 23rd February Apprentice Handicap.
Ballinahow Lady scores at Thurles
The Michael Fitzgibbon Memorial European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Chase was the main event on Thursday’s card at Thurles and it was the David O’Brien-trained Ballinahow Lady that took the spoils. Ridden by John Cullen, the eight-year-old had to battle gamely to see off Ros Brin by ½-length in a thrilling finish. In terms of the individual performances on the card, Davy Russell’s double was the pick, with the reigning champion jockey riding the Philip Byrne-trained Moiqen to a 1¼ lengths success in the opening Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase and the Mouse Morris-trained Carry Each Other to a last-gasp 1½ lengths victory in the Devils Bit Beginners Chase.
Hogan Doubles Up At Thurles
Trainer/jockey Denis Hogan was the star performer at Thurles on Wednesday, saddling the first double of his training career and riding one of them himself. His account was opened in the Clonmore Handicap Hurdle, with Brian Cawley riding Luke’s Benefit to an all-the-way seven lengths victory. Hogan was in charge of the reins himself for his second victory, with him riding Missie Ella to a hard-fought ½-length success in the Littleton Handicap Hurdle.
Tote Launches new racing club
Tote Ireland have launched a racing club which has free membership for all Tote account holders. The Tote Racing Club has chosen its first horse to represent its members, a yet unnamed Flemensfirth mare currently in training with Noel Meade. Every Tote account customer gets free membership to the club and will have the chance to enter competitions to become an owner-member, entitling them to a share of prize money and days out watching the Tote Club horse in action.
Grand National weights released
Last week, the weights were released for the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on April 6th. While the original top weight Tidal Bay was ruled out of the race through injury just days after the announcement of the weights, his owners Andrea and Graham Wylie are likely to have strong representation in the shape of the two Willie Mullins-trained performers On His Own (10st 10lb) and Prince De Beauchene (11st 3lb).
A strong Irish-trained entry of 31 features the Ted Walsh-trained pair of Seabass (11st 2lb) and Colbert Station (10st 11lb). Jonjo O’Neill’s Sunnyhillboy, beaten a nose in last year’s renewal for JP McManus, has 11st this year compared to 10st 5lb in 2012, while the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs, successful in 2011, is another on 11st, the same weight as he carried to victory under Jason Maguire.
Flemenstar likely to miss Cheltenham
Trainer Peter Casey says Flemenstar is ‘very unlikely’ to run at the Cheltenham Festival in March after being found to have a lung infection. The Stephen Curran-owned eight-year-old, who finished second to Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday, was diagnosed with the problem on Monday. He is instead likely to be aimed at the big Aintree meeting in April.
Casey told Press Association Sport: “He’ll be out for two to three weeks. It’s a bad lung infection. The vets found he had it today. He’s going to be all right in the long term, but I would say Cheltenham is very unlikely now. The jockey (Andrew Lynch) thought something was wrong on Saturday and it looks like he was right. We’ll probably look at Aintree now.”
Upcoming Fixtures: Navan – Tuesday 21st February (First Race 1:40); Punchestown – Wednesday 20th February (2:05); Clonmel – Thursday 21st February (2:25); Dundalk – Friday 22nd February (5.50); Fairyhouse – Saturday 23rd February (1:00); Naas – Sunday 24th February (2:00)