Just as Henry de Bromhead had talked the talk about Bob
Olinger in the build-up so the exciting prospect walked the walk on the track
at Naas, writes Bradley West.
The six-year-old, who was favourite for this race after pushing Ferny Hollow all the way in November before winning at Navan a month later, earned his first Group 1 win with a professional performance in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.
Despite being favourite, today represented a first real test of Olinger’s credentials and he passed it with flying colours by beating Willie Mullins’ emerging talent Blue Lord thanks to a strong finish at the final hurdle.
Now a three-time winner under rules, Olinger is a real one to watch with Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham Festival looming large over the next few months.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” winning jockey Rachael Blackmore said.
“I was just going to try and ride a straightforward enough race on him, he’s a simple horse in that way and I was happy with him.
“My lad was good, he jumped better today in the latter half of the race. It’s brilliant to get that under his belt.
“Everyone’s always thought a lot of this horse. He’s been very consistent and anyone that’s been involved with him has liked him.
“Today was the big test. He was more professional today than he ever has been. He’s a really nice horse and it’s just great to be involved with him.”
Mullins and Gordon Elliott have between them dominated this race over the past decade, winning on eight of the last ten runnings, but it was the turn of a new training face to win the 2m4f contest on this occasion.
Olinger and Blue Lord, who Mullins had declared was a Group 1 horse in waiting in the lead-up to the first top-level race in Ireland this year, were the star attractions but it was Gavin Cromwell’s Gabynako who took the lead from the start.
And the six-year-old was good for this lead for much of the race before falling away at the third last, setting up a showdown between the two pre-race market leaders.
At first, the battle appeared even but de Bromhead’s star came through his toughest test yet by finding a burst of pace at the right moment late on to surge away for a six and a half length victory.
Blackmore added: “I don’t think he’s a real sharp Champion Hurdle horse in the making, two and a half is ideal for him.
“In the future, he’s going to be a horse for the longer trips. He’s won a point-to-point and looks one for fences in the future.”