Big Weekend: Fairyhouse Winter Festival

Friday, November 30, 2018
Big Weekend Fairyhouse Winter Festival

Big Weekend: Fairyhouse Winter Festival

Jockey to watch – Cooper calling

It wasn’t all that long ago that Bryan Cooper would be playing a round of golf rather than competing at the major National Hunt festivals. It was a tough time for the former Gold Cup-winning jockey with 34 Grade 1 successes to his name but he held his counsel and worked at establishing new relationships following his sacking as retained rider to Gigginstown House Stud.

The split saw his tally of winners plummet to 18, his lowest since the four he accumulated in his debut campaign back in 2009-2010. It was a long way shy of the 94 he recorded in 2015-2016 but while he won’t be threatening that this term, with 13 on the board, he is moving in the right direction once more.

Associations with major owner Chris Jones and trainer Paul Nolan have already paid dividends and Cooper is back chasing the major prizes once more as a result, starting with the unbeaten Coeur Sublime for Jones and Gordon Elliott in the Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle, before teaming up with the Nolan-trained Discorama in the mouth-watering Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase.

Both horses are stepping up in class after impressing on debut in their new disciplines and strong performances on Sunday will augur well for the future. Either way, it looks like Cooper is back in the mix.


Jockey to watch 2 – the other Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy was content to be known as the brother of American President, John F Kennedy (known to his friends as Jack) even though he was a high achiever in his own right.

Racing’s Jack Kennedy is one of the brightest stars of Irish racing though only 19 and will be chasing Grade 1 glory at Newcastle and Fairyhouse over the weekend. His brother Paddy is 11 years older and is naturally proud of the teenager’s remarkable achievements but Paddy’s own fortunes have taken a turn for the better in the past year, after a dreadful run of injuries – fractured ankle and foot, factured fibula, fractured knee and fractured leg – applied the brakes to his progress following a breakthrough campaign in 2010-2011, when he rode 11 winners on 11 individual horses for eight trainers.

That remained his best return until last term, when he clocked up 15 triumphs. His boss, Jessica Harrington provided plenty of opportunities but Kennedy the Elder’s popularity was illustrated once more by the fact that 10 trainers supplied the conveyances for his victories. That two of them came on Touch Of Gold, trained by another brother, Michael was a real sweetener.

With stable jockey, Robbie Power in Newcastle tomorrow to ride Vision Des Flos in opposition to Jack and Samcro in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Paddy will be looking to cash in on Moonshine Bay, Discordantly and Jack Fiasco for the gaffer. As well as those, he will also get the leg up from Michael on Smithscorner, who has been enjoying himself of late, including when winning in Cork in October, with Jack on board. Another Kennedy family celebration would come as no surprise indeed.


Race of the weekend – Historic Hatton’s Grace?

The name of mud-loving mare, Solerina cropped up three weeks ago in the build-up to the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan, in which Apple’s Jade was making her season appearance and the pair come into the same conversation once more ahead of the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grade Hurdle.

When Solerina took the spoils in 2005, she was joining her best mate Limestone Lad, which whom she still shares a field in Gathabawn under the watchful eye of the Bowe family, as a three-time victor of this prestigious prize.

By achieving the feat three years in a row however, and given her connections a sixth victory in seven seasons, she was creating history, Limestone Lad following up his 1999 victory by competing in the Drinmore Chase 12 months later, before returning to hurdling to win the next two renewals.

Now, Apple’s Jade is on the brink of joining the duo as three-time victors and Solerina in doing so in consecutive seasons. Judging from the ease with which she asserted her superiority over the opposition in the Lismullen Hurdle, she is the one they all have to beat although with Supasundae, Limini, Farclas and Wicklow Brave among the opposition, it is a fascinating contest.

What is notable about the daughter of Saddle Maker however is that she is still only six years old and once she retains her appetite for racing, she will have plenty more opportunities to add to her tally before the time comes to produce champions in her own image.


When Solerina took the spoils in 2005, she was joining her best mate Limestone Lad, which whom she still shares a field in Gathabawn under the watchful eye of the Bowe family, as a three-time victor of this prestigious prize.

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