Willie cranks it up
While he has managed to just about hold off
Gordon Elliott’s concerted challenge for championship honours in Ireland the last
two seasons, and is so far managing to keep his nose in front entering the
critical closing months of the current campaign, Willie Mullins has been forced
to yield to the Cullentra House boss as leading trainer at the Cheltenham
Festival in 2017 and 2018.
It wasn’t that Mullins endured a lean spell –
far from it - but Elliott edged him out on each occasion, matching his record
yield of eight winners 12 months ago.
Just a couple of weeks ago, there were plenty
who felt that Closutton could be in for a fallow return this time however, with
no apparent ‘good thing’ in his ranks. It could still be the case of course –
nothing is certain in racing. And no matter who you are, you cannot have a
Vautour or Douvan to get your meeting under way ever year.
But who is to say that Klassical Dream or
Aramon will not join them on the Supreme Novices’ roll of honour anyway. Or
Laurina succeed Faugheen and Hurricane Fly?
judging by recent results, the horses could
not be in better form and considerable improvement can be expected. Visits to
the last three National Hunt meetings on these shores – Thurles on Thursday,
Gowran Park on Saturday and Naas yesterday –produced three doubles.
And just to emphasise the point,
Pairofbrowneyes won the Toalsbet Leinster National, his first triumph since
claiming the same prize 12 months ago, and led a Mullins 1-2-3 into the bargain,
Isleofhopendreams and Bellow Mome following the Fibbange Syndicate-owned
were looking for omens…
In like Flynn
Part of looking forward to the Cheltenham
Festival involves reflecting on previous feats at jump racing’s Olympics and
that happened naturally on Friday night as Pat Flynn reminded us once more of
his considerable talents with a Dundalk double.
The Rathgormack handler will forever be
connected with history at the great meeting, having trained the only horse to
win consecutive races there. Montelado upset the odds when defeating the Noel
Meade-trained Tiananmen Square by 12 lengths in the festival-closing Champion
Bumper in 1992, when Richard Dunwoody was in the plate.
Charlie Swan was on board for the traditional
opener in 1993, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but the result and margin were the
same, with Martin Pipe’s Lemon’s Mill the dozen lengths in arrears.
It is French Ballerina that Flynn always
considered his most gifted charge though. The daughter of Sadler’s Wells was
just six weeks old when Montelado turned the Supreme into a procession but
became his stablemate and then emulated him with another comprehensive success
in the race for Flynn, by seven lengths over the Mouse Morris-trained His Song,
who was ridden by future champion flat jockey, Richard Hughes.
Neither Lizard Point nor Yarraman are as
talented as French Ballerina or Montelado, or indeed Designs On Rome, another
former Flynn favourite who would go on to be Horse of the Year in Hong Kong.
Nonetheless, by bagging the two divisions of
the Coral Smart Money
Series Handicap with the considerable help of Conor Hoban, they were
illustrating their conditioner’s enduring ability to make the best of the raw
material at his disposal.
Two days earlier, Classic-winning trainer Ken
Condon registered a winner with his first runner from his new home at Osborne
Lodge, where Dessie Hughes, father of the aforementioned Richard, famously
prepared triple Cheltenham victor, and dual Champion Hurdler, Hardy Eustace.
Blue Jasmine got the verdict in the stewards’ room after being carried right by
Burning Lake in the Follow @BetVictorRacing On
That success arrived about a half-hour
after multiple Festival-winning jockey Jamie Codd made a rare visit to the all-weather
pay. The Wexford man combined with Gordon Elliott, leading trainer at
Cheltenham for the last two years and with whom he has combined for successes
on the likes of Cause Of Causes and Fayonagh at Prestbury Park, to bag the BetVictor (QR) Handicap with Markhan.
Dundalk is the place to be!
Queally making his own headlines
Tom Queally may have garnered most of the
family headlines for his association with the fantastic Frankel but his brother
Declan is making his own now.
Always a talented jockey, with more than
200 winners in point-to-points, he went very close to adding a Cheltenham
triumph to his CV with a bold ride on Kilty Storm, trained by fellow west
Waterford man Roger McGrath, before having to settle for second to Baby Run in
the 2010 Foxhunter Chase.
He has turned his hand to training in
recent years and is currently on 18 points winners, already bettering his
previous best of 17 and placing him second on the handlers’ table to Colin
Bowe. He has also ridden 12 winners, bringing his overall career tally between
the flags to 222.
Richie Deegan had the steering duties when Queally’s
redoubtable servant Fenno’s Storm annexed one of the most coveted trophies in
hunter chasing, the Tetratema Cup at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Though only eight, the son of September
Storm has been a key figure as Queally established himself in his new
profession. A seven-time victor in point-to-points, this was his second win
under Rules. Cheltenham might not have been for him this year, but it would be
no surprise to see him make the journey in the future.
It is almost certain that Queally will – as
a jockey and a trainer.