LAST week’s two-day Punchestown fixture proved a happy ground for Clare trainers, with both Lorna Casey and Donie Hassett featuring among the winners at the Kildare track.Newmarket-on-Fergus-based Ms Casey and her husband Fachtna Twomey, whose small team are doing really well of late, struck first when sending out Clan Music, in the colours of Cratloe owner Seán McNamara, to land Tuesday’s 2010 Five-Day Festival Handicap Hurdle.
Sent off at 12/1, the Kevin Coleman-ridden Clan Music improved to lead off the home bend in this two-and-a-half mile contest and stuck to her task in admirable fashion as the 12/1 shot saw off all challengers to beat Bobs Display by a neck.
A point-to-point winner at Dromahane back in the autumn of 2007, Clan Music won a handicap hurdle at Tipperary last season and had run well enough when 10th to Alickadoo at Cork a fortnight ago. The nine-year-old will be aimed at another handicap over hurdles before being launched over fences in due course.
The following afternoon it was the turn of Quin handler Donie Hassett to taste success as his 7/1 shot Droim Toll made a successful return after a five-month absence to land the two-mile, five-furlong www.punchestown.com For Offers Handicap Chase.
Competing in the colours of Gort racing enthusiast Johnny Kilroy, Droim Toll was given a dashing ride by Paul Townsend, who had the seven-year-old, who won two point-to-points including a winners’ race at Belharbour in 2008, up front all the way before edging clear at the last to beat Tiernan’s Terror by three lengths.
A sound jumper who loves to bowl along at the head of affairs, Droim Toll, who was placed on numerous occasions last term, has plenty scope for improvement and there is a good staying chaser to win over the course of the season with the son of Simply Great.
The opening race on Wednesday’s card was the Tote Sports Lounge Novice Hurdle, where John Kiely’s even-money chance Sweeps Hill maintained his unbeaten record over timber when getting the better of 4/5 favourite Some Present.
This was a real tactical affair where there was no early pace as the four runners completed the first-mile-and-a-half at no more than a crawl. Sweeps Hill found himself in front at the second flight, where Some Present almost ran out and Tony McCoy, who was riding the JP McManus-owned five-year-old who had won his maiden at Tipperary last month, had enough in reserve to stave off the challenge of Cheltenham Bumper runner-up Some Present by three-quarters of a length.
Awarded the Champion Bumper at Punchestown back in May following the disqualification of Dunguib, Sweeps Hill is a classy recruit to jumping and is now one of the leading fancies for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
There were quite a few other big names in action at the Kildare track over the two days with Noel Meade’s Pandorama making a successful transition to fences when scoring in Tuesday’s two and a half mile Beginners’ Chase.
Paul Carberry did the steering on this front-running son of Flemensfirth, who despite losing many lengths at every fence by jumping markedly out to his left, had enough in the locker where it mattered to beat Paul Nolan’s Clan Tara by a head.
While the 2/5 favourite gave his supporters quite a fright, nevertheless, Pandorama is a very good horse and, obviously, he will be more at home going left-handed at places like Cheltenham and Aintree.
No Kauto but J N Wine Chase still a good race
THIS year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kauto Star will not make his seasonal return in the Jnwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday but Paul Nicholls will be represented in the big race with Aintree Grand National third My Will.
Nicholls, who has indicated Kauto Star’s first outing of the 2009/10 season will be in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, has won this race for the last two years and My Will can be expected to make a bold bid to give the Ditcheat handler a hat-trick.
He faces stiff opposition, however, with the likes of Jim Dreaper’s Welsh National winner Notre Pere, sure to put it up to the UK raider. He loves soft ground and showed he was no mug over the larger obstacles when running out a facile winner of the last season’s Welsh Grand National at Chepstow before adding the Grade 1 Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown to his winnings.
Others listed among the 14 entries for this €140,000 event include Mouse Morris’ War Of Attrition. Successful under Conor O’Dwyer in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham back in 2006, Michael O’Leary’s charge was on the sidelines for a long time after that and it remains to be seen if he can regain his old sparkle.
Dessie Hughes, whose Curragh-based team are firing on all cylinders at present, is doubly represented with Schlindlers Hunt and smart novice Seigemaster. The former is top class on his day and is definitely capable of a bold showing, while Seigemaster, a good winner at Wexford recently, will be going in at the deep end if facing the starter.
There are quite a few decent races on the two-day card at the Northern venue, with Friday’s WKD Core Hurdle pencilled in for Noel Meade’s Go Native. He won the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham last season and will be a warm order to make a successful seasonal bow, with Shark Hanlon’s impressive Galway maiden hurdle winner Luska Lad and Voler La Vedette, from Colm Murphy’s yard, other interesting contenders for this €50,000 two-mile test.
Unfortunately, bad weather forced a wipe-out of last Sunday’s cards with the meetings scheduled for Leopardstown and Cork both cancelled due to the very heavy rain that fell onSaturday night.
Point-to-point racing fared no better as Sunday’s meetings at Lingstown, County Wexford and the Suir Vale offering at Templemore were called off. Both of these fixtures have been rescheduled and will take place this Saturday weather permitting.
There was action up north last Saturday at Maralin, County Down where Derek O’Connor visited the winners’ enclosure as he steered even-money favourite Top Twig to victory in division two of the open lightweight. David Christie’s 10-year-old was prominent all the way and drew clear from two to beat Gaspar by a comfortable five lengths.