It was a great weekend for the well-known Brassil family from Newmarket-on-Fergus, with brothers John and Martin both saddling winners over a 24-hour period on Saturday and Sunday.
John was first into action when sending out The Bosses Nephew from his Lisduff stables to spring a 14-1 surprise in Saturday’s two-mile handicap chase at Naas.
Very much an outsider (paid €26.70 on the tote), this son of Flemensfirth made light of that ranking when producing a fine display as he overcame a 254-day lay-off to score with a bit in hand.
Now a nine-year-old, The Bosses Nephew was given a fine ride by jockey Tom Doyle as the pair arrived to challenge The Dew At Night for the lead at the final fence.
A less-than-fluent leap here, however, didn’t help his cause and he had to dig deep to reel in the leader on the uphill climb to the post to finally put his head in front with 100 yards to race for an emphatic three-parts of a length success.
The winner carries the silks of Cork farmer and grain merchant Edward Farrell, who has enjoyed a long and successful association with the Brassil yard that stretches back to the 1992 success of the Jason Titley-ridden How’s The Boss in the then Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Speaking in the aftermath of Saturday’s success, Brassil said, “That was great performance given that he was off since the end of May last year. Eddie (Farrell) is away in Dubai but it is great to win a race at any time. Please God, he can go on to win more races from here.”
On Sunday afternoon, it was the turn of John’s younger brother, Grand National-winning trainer Martin, to hog the limelight as he landed a nice pot when sending out Moville to claim a €25,000 two-mile handicap hurdle at Leopardstown’s big Hennessy Gold Cup meeting.
The booking of top jockey Ruby Walsh for this Michael Hayes-owned five-year-old, who had disappointed when 15th behind Puyol in the MCR Hurdle on his previous outing, was a significant pointer to his chances and the champion rider rode a perfect race when producing the Alhaarth gelding with a searing run approaching the final flight to beat Jigalo by two-and-a-half lengths.
Moville, who was following up two earlier wins over timber at Navan to add to his victory of the Flat at Gowran, is on the upgrade and could well be a big player at the upcoming Fairyhouse or Punchestown festivals.
Brassil, who trains at Dunmurray in County Kildare, said, “That was fantastic ride from Ruby. “He had a torrid time here the last day in the MCR Hurdle and enjoyed no luck in running. He’s been busy of late, so we’ll wait and see what is coming up for him next.”
Brilliant Dunguib on course for festival opener
The supporting card to the Hennessy on Sunday contained three Grade One races and the Deloitte Hurdle was a hugely interesting event as it signalled the biggest test to date for Philip Fenton’s unbeaten hurdling star, Dunguib.
An effortless winner of his three starts over timber prior to Sunday’s outing, Dunguib was the name on everybody’s lips as he sought to complete his Cheltenham Festival preparations on a winning note and he did just that in spectacular fashion.
Settled at the rear of this seven-runner field in the early stages by Brian O’Connell as Saludos cut out what was a decent pace, Dunguib didn’t jump with his usual fluency, missing out a bit on the second and fourth flights but he was still pulling O’Connell’s arms out coming off the home turn.
Ruby Walsh was hard at work on the leading Foinnegas approaching the final flight but Duguib was waiting in the wings and, once safely over the final fight, he pounced on the inside rail before drawing away for a hugely impressive two-and-a-half-length win.
Following Sunday’s success, Dunguib’s status as a ‘banker’ for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on March 16 remains intact and, while some may argue his jumping might find him out in the hurly-burly of a 20-plus field at Prestbury Park, last year’s champion bumper winner must have a huge chance.
Dunguib is now odds-on to make it the perfect start for the Irish to this year’s festival and, while many an Irish hot-shot has bitten the dust in the shadows of Cleeve Hill over the years, it is going to take a very special effort to lower this fellow’s colours.
The opening Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle may also have a big bearing on Cheltenham, with Charles Byrnes’ Pittoni staking his claim for festival glory when maintaining his unbeaten record over hurdles with a smooth success under Davy Russell.
A former John Oxx inmate, Pittoni has done little wrong since joining his Ballingarry, County Limerick trainer and his two-and-a-half-length win over Cross Appeal on Sunday should leave him spot-on for his next engagement, which is in Triumph Hurdle.
A lot of fancied horses were put in their place in the Grade 1 Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase, where Willie Mullins’ Citizen Vic upset the applecart when scoring at 12-1 under a dashing drive from Paul Townend.
Jessica Harrington’s Roberta Goldback went off 5-2 favourite in this two-mile, five-furlong event but he could only manage third behind the all-the-way winner, who according to Mullins, is more likely to swerve Cheltenham in favour of some of the bigger prizes on offer here at home.
On Saturday afternoon at Naas, JP McManus’ Captain Cee Bee got his season back on track with a classy display under Mark Walsh in the Opera Hat Novice Chase.
A final-fence faller when looking a major threat to eventual winner Sizing Europe at Leopardstown over Christmas, Edward Harty’s 2008 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner jumped well in the main – apart from a blunder at the last – en-route to an effortless 13-length success over Fosters Cross and is now 7-2 favourite for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham on March 16.
Joncol lands Hennessy thriller
Joncol came out on top in a thrilling finish to the Grade One Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Paul Nolan’s charge, who threw away his chance when hitting the front too soon in the Lexus Chase over Christmas, gained sweet compensation in this contest for his Wexford trainer Paul Nolan and his Craughwell, County Galway-born rider Alain ‘Squeaky’ Cawley.
Dispatched 9-4 favourite to make up for his lapse last time out, Joncol was ridden on this occasion with much more restraint and the change in tactics proved crucial as he came with a perfectly timed effort to pip long-time leader Cooldine.
Ruby Walsh seized this race by the scruff of the neck aboard Cooldine and Willie Mullins’ charge looked set to score when jumping the final fence with a healthy advantage.
Cawley, however, was still only stoking up Joncol and, with the winning post in sight, the seven-year-old stuck his neck out like a lion to shade it by neck after a titanic battle.
In some ways, Joncol deserved this win. He’s only seven and his star is definitely on the rise. A big, strong frame of a horse, he will improve from this and Nolan hasn’t even entered him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He does have an engagement in the Ryanair Chase at the festival but speaking in the aftermath of Sunday’s race, Nolan said, “I didn’t even bother putting him in the Gold Cup as he’d have to improve 20lb or more to be up there with Kauto Star or Denman, so there was little point in entering him. It is no more than 50-50 at this stage that he’ll even go for the Ryanair, he is a horse with a big future and I see him as a Gold Cup candidate next season.”