Big Weekend: Looking ahead to racing from Navan and Punchestown

Friday, December 07, 2018
Big Weekend 7th December

Big Weekend: Looking ahead to racing at Navan and Punchestown

Dundee for Davis and Dad

Chris Jones has two runners tomorrow. Noble Endeavour is the representative in the Becher Chase at Aintree but it is Ben Dundee’s bid for honours in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Klairon Davis Novice Chase (1.35pm) at Navan that may carry just the most significance.

Klairon Davis was a spectacular French-bred horse that blossomed when sent chasing by trainer Arthur Moore, once winning seven races in a row and graduating from triumph in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham to bagging Champion Chase spoils 12 months later.

He was owned by Jones’s father of the same name and such were his feats that this race was named in his owner in 2015. Jones Snr had passed away two years earlier, by which time his son had taken over the racing operation. He ensured there were no changes to the colours however, or to how his name appeared in the racecard – C Jones. No point in changing a winning formula.

While Tiger Cry, What A Charm, Mala Beach, Zabana and the ill-fated Mega Fortune are just some that have carried the familiar livery to significant success in recent years, they have not been seen in the winner’s enclosure after the Klairon Davis Chase yet.

Ben Dundee does have a good chance in a field of five, though a Grade 3 contest at three furlongs shorter than his easy two-and-a-half-mile success at Punchestown last month is a stiffer test. But with Klairon Davis dying on March 27, just a three weeks after celebrating his 29th calendar birthday and having enjoyed deserved superstar treatment after his retirement at the Jones racing HQ in Killeen Glebe, you have to think this would be the perfect time to rectify that.


Hungry like a ‘Wulf

Derek O’Connor is the most decorated amateur rider in the history of horse racing and the latest accolade arrived at the Clayton Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday night, when he was honoured for providing the Ride of the Year at the Horse Racing Ireland Awards.

A record-breaker in terms of titles won and winners ridden on the point-to-point circuit, and a multiple victor at the Cheltenham Festival, it was his stunning performance on the miracle horse Edwulf, as they won the Irish Gold Cup for JP McManus and Joseph O’Brien, that he was lauded this week, earning the plaudits of Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh, and the votes of the public.

Of course it was remarkable from Edwulf, who had almost died at Cheltenham less than a year earlier. Now, the nine-year-old gets his campaign under way in the John Durkan Memorial Chase (2pm) at Punchestown on Sunday, against four high-class opponents.

O’Connor will be reunited with his old pal once more as they build towards returning to Leopardstown to make it two in a row at the Dublin Racing Festival next February. What a story that would be.


Gallic seal of approval

Had you told Willie Mullins five years ago that Un De Sceaux – which translates as ‘one of the seals’ – would still be racing at the highest level now, he would have doubted you. It is a testament to his instincts that the O’Connell-owned gelding is doing so. The trainer’s decision to swerve severe tests such as the 2014 Champion Hurdle with his free-spirited runaway train ensured that mind and body were not overstretched.

Virginie Bascop deserves much of the credit however. Mullins, his son Patrick and Ruby Walsh are among those who have referred to her ability to calm the tigerish son of Debenham Red down, relatively speaking at least. She is his designated rider at Closutton and perhaps because of their shared Gallic sensibilities, the results have been astounding.

Un De Sceaux became just ever so slightly more compliant and deigned to settle noticeably better in his races. Have of his 18 wins from 25 races have come in Grade 1 races, half of his four Cheltenham Festival visits were successful. In the 23 races he has completed, he has only finished outside the first two once. His most recent appearance yielded a dominant victory in the Punchestown Champion Chase, bringing his prizemoney earned to more than €1.3m.

He will turn 11 soon but reports are that he retains all his old enthusiasm and offers up reminders every now and then of just who the boss is. Much and all as they are friends, Bascop has been deposited to the turf a couple of times. She doesn’t hold it against him. Walsh was reported to be holding on very tightly as the pair accelerated down a line of schooling fences recently. One suspects that the jockey was grinning broadly.

Underdog he may be against Altior and co in a mouth-watering Tingle Creek at Sandown tomorrow, but the rain arriving at last, it sounds like he is ready to entertain his vast army of fans once more.

Derek O’Connor is the most decorated amateur rider in the history of horse racing and the latest accolade arrived at the Clayton Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday night, when he was honoured for providing the Ride of the Year at the Horse Racing Ireland Awards. 

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