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Limerick Racecourse saw a fairytale success for owner/trainer Paddy Corkery

Great stories from super festive racing action

The Grade 1 BoyleSports Faugheen Novice Chase was the highlight at Limerick on Sunday with the prestigious St Stephen’s Day feature going to 10/1 shot Master McShee, writes Michael Duggan.

One of just two horses his Dungarvan, County Waterford owner/trainer Paddy Corkery has on the go at the moment, Master McShee was ridden by Ian Power.

Some of the top novices in the country lined-up for this two-mile, three-furlong contest worth almost €60,000 to the winner. Gordon Elliott’s Farouk D’alene went off 11/10 favourite under Jordan Gainford.

The ground was heavy at the Patrickswell venue, with Joseph O’Brien’s Fire Attack taking them along in the early stages.

Heading across the track for the final time, the early leader began to wane with the patiently-ridden favourite taking over up front.

Master McShee was also creeping into contention, however, and rising to the final fence there was little separating the duo.

The pair settled down to scrap it out on the run from the last, with Power just squezing enough from Master McShee in the shadow of the post to score by a short-head in a pulsating finish.

A first-ever Grade 1 for 40-year-old-winning jockey Power, not surprisingly, the victorious trainer – who was also gaining a first Grade 1 success – was also over the moon with Master McShee’s display. He said: “Training this horse is my enjoyment and as my wife and kids will tell you it’s a passion of mine. We thought coming here he had a right good chance and Ian gave him an unbelievable ride.

“He was third to Bob Olinger at Gowran last month and that was a decent effort. I ride him out every day and to be honest, I haven’t been involved in horses all that long myself. I’m thrilled to provide Ian with his first Grade 1 success as a jockey. He a neighbour of mine, a very nice fella and we get on really well together.”

Pressed about future plans, Corkery continued: “We hadn’t looked much further than this to be fair. Obviously he’s a very good horse. Travelling him to Cheltenham isn’t very high on my agenda. We’ll probably head to the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown and then on to Punchestown with him after that.”

The atmosphere at Greenmount Park was terrific with the 5,000 fans present treated to a super day’s racing.

Trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Jordan Gainford wasted little time in opening their Limerick Christmas Festival 2021 account when claiming the opening Eden Capital 3-Y-O Hurdle with Doctor Churchill.

The 4/1 shot grittily fended off 5/4 favourite Champion Green by two-and-a-half lengths after the pair had scrapped it out from the final flight.

Noel Meade has his team firing on all cylinders at the moment and his Tu Va stables supplied the winner of the O’Kelly Brothers Demolition Hurdle when Daly Tiger (100/30) scored for owner Gigginstown House and Jockey Eoin Walsh.

Cork trainer, James Motherway, visited the winner’s circle when his Rebel Ivy (17/2) sprinted clear in the closing stages in the hands of jockey Donie McInerney to register a clear-cut success the Mr Binman (Mares) Handicap Hurdle.

Mullins’ Flyer scoops King George

Champion trainer Willie Mullins sent two runners to Kempton on St Stephen’s Day to take part in the Ladbrokes King George Chase.

On the face of it, Asterion Forlonge looked the best of the Mullins pair – having run a cracker over an inadequate trip until falling three out in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown earlier this month – with stable companion Tornado Flyer widely considered no more than a lively outsider.

After all, the opposition included some of the best chasers in training in the UK, not to mention that last March’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Minella Indo, had made the journey across the Irish Sea from Henry De Bromhead’s Waterford yard and had the added bonus of having all-conquering Rachel Blackmore on his back.

But hoses don’t know what price they are and, after a thrilling contest, it was 28/1 chance Tornado Flyer and Danny Mullins who landed the spoils.

Frodon and Bryony Frost led the nine-strong field at a decent clip, until Saint Calvados rushed up on his outside to take over with four fences to jump.

His effort petered out tamely enough when Danny Mullins and Tornado came there full of running approaching the second last.

Quickly Mullins opened up a gap aboard the winner and when his stablemate Asterion Forlonge – who looked sure give Closutton a 1-2 in the race – dislodged Bryan Cooper at the last, it was left to Clan Des Obeaux to chase home the surprise winner.

A few horses disappointed in the race, none more so than Minella Indo. He was never travelling and Ms Blackmore suggested he just didn’t act on the track or the ground, pulling him up before three out when out of contention.

Likewise Nicky Henderson’s well-backed 3/1 favourite Chantry House. JP Manus’ charge just didn’t seem to have a cut at his fences and never seemed to travel with any fluency.

All credit to Danny Mullins however. This was by far his biggest success to-date and the fact that his uncle Willie Mullins puts him up in these big races is proof that he can do the job.

Hollow stars at silent Leopardstown

Leopardstown were dealt a huge blow on the eve of their four-day Christmas Festival when the organisers were forced to go behind-closed-doors due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.

A surge in cases and a shortage of staff to deal with the public was given as the reason for the late change of heart, but, thankfully, racing at the Foxrock venue went ahead uninterrupted.

The star of the opening day was undoubtedly Ferny Hollow. A point-to-point winner at Knockanard for Colin Bowe early in 2019, the son of Westerner was snapped up by Cheveley Park Stud (made £300,000) and sent to Willie Mullins.

Ironically, he was beaten in his first two bumpers, but made up for that when landing the 2020 Cheltenham bumper.

His future though was always over fences. Having won his Beginners’ Chase at Punchestown at the start of this month, Ferny Hollow lined up for last Sunday’s Grade 1 €100,000 Racing Post Novice Chase with Paul Townend in the saddle.

This was a tricky assignment as Gordon Elliott’s smart Rivière D’etel was in receipt of 13Ibs and was unbeaten in her three starts over fences.

Townend opted to keep it simple and bucked Ferny Hollow into an early lead. Jumping well, the 10/11 favourite turned for home with a couple of lengths advantage and while Rivière D’etel and Jack Kennedy kept Ferny Hollow honest on the run-in, Townend’s mount was always doing enough with one-and-a-half-lengths between the pair at the line.

Earlier in the day, this year’s Cheltenham bumper winner, Sir Gerhard, had made a winning debut over hurdles when easily landing the Thornton’s Recycling Maiden Hurdle.

The 2/9 favourite made all in this two-mile event, jumping well under Paul Townend en-route to a very impressive eight-length victory.

What was a brilliant day for Mullins ended in the best possible fashion when the well-touted newcomer Facile Vega (10/11 favourite) dotted-up in the concluding bumper.

A Walk In The Park-sired son of six-time Cheltenham Festival-winner Quevaga, Facile Vega hit for home early in straight and Patrick Mullins pushed his mount clear to score by half-a-dozen lengths.

The winner is certainly bred for the job with most betting firms now making him 7/2 second-favourite (behind American Mike) for the Cheltenham Festival bumper.

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