NEWMARKET-on-Fergus trainer John Brassil tasted success at last Saturday’s Dromahane, County Cork point-to-point fixture where his Carrigerry (3/1-4/1) ran out an impressive winner of the first division of the concluding six-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden.
A promising fourth on her pointing debut at Loughrea last month, Carrigerry, who was capably ridden by James ‘Corky’ Carroll, hit the front approaching two out and ran on with real gusto to deny runner-up Humble Crumble by half a length.
Brassil, who has a 20-strong team of nice horses under his care at his Lisduff yard, trains the successful daughter of Houmayoun for Quin Road, Ennis businessman Padraic Fannin.
“This is a very nice mare,” said the winning handler. “Derek O’Connor rode her the last day at Loughrea and he was mad about her but, unfortunately, he was unavailable today.
“She jumped really well and we’ll try and find a winners’ race for her next. I’d be looking at a mares’ novice chase on the racecourse for her after that,” concluded Brassil, who rode many big winners during his days as a professional jockey.
Derek O’Connor may have missed out a winning ride aboard Carrigerrry but for good reason, as he was in action up north on Saturday at the Kirkistown, County Down fixture, where he bagged three winners.
The six-time champion kicked off when steering 7/4 favourite Sunnyside, trained for leading owner Wilson Dennison by Colin McKeever, to a hard-fought half-a-length success over Trendelenburg in the second division of the opening four-year-old maiden.
Later on, O’Connor bagged his second success of the afternoon as his Ian Ferguson-trained mount, Donati (3/1-7/4F) dead-heated with Symphonist in a cracking finish to the winners of three race. The O’Connor hat-trick was completed in the first leg of the concluding six-year-old and upwards geldings’ maiden aboard 2/1 favourite Lead ‘Em Over. Held up in the early stages, this Overbury gelding made steady progress to lead on the run to the final fence and galloped on resolutely to beat runner-up Glenoto by five lengths.
O’Connor enjoyed further success the following afternoon when bringing his tally for the weekend to five with a well-executed double at Sunday’s marathon 12-race West Waterford session at Boulta.
The 26-year-old paid his first visit of the day to the winners’ enclosure when steering the well-backed Burnt Oil Babe (6/4-4/5F) to a gutsy success in the mares’ winners’ race.
Trained in County Carlow by Willie Murphy, Burnt Oil Babe jumped to the front two out and eased clear from there to deny runner-up Hansel Monday in the style of a useful mare.
Tallow, County Waterford owner/trainer Eoin Curtin provided O’Connor with the second leg of his double when giving the award-winning rider the leg up on Another Tribunal (4/1), who ran out an impressive winner of the second division of the closing six and seven-year-old geldings’ maiden.
What proved a rewarding weekend for O’Connor has seen the reigning champion close the gap significantly on his main jockeys’ championship rival Jamie Codd. Going into last weekend, O’Connor trailed the Wexford native by nine but with Codd managing just one win at the weekend, the margin between the pair is now down to five (23-18). Both riders are expected to be in action at this weekend’s sole fixture, which is taking place at Ballindenisk, near Watergrasshill, County Cork on Sunday.
Denman joins Hennessy greats
TOP chaser Denman became the first horse since the mighty Arkle way back in 1965 to defy top-weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury when shouldering 11st 12Ib to success in a thrilling renewal of this historic chase at Newbury on Saturday.
Backed into 11/4F to defy his welter burden, Denman put up a fantastic effort when coming home in front of stable companion What A Friend. From two out, the Paul Nicholls-trained pair had the race between them and what a spectacle they served up.
Ruby Walsh, who was not afraid to force the issue, really threw down the gauntlet to his rivals when sending Denman to the front passing the stands with a circuit to race. Only the Sam Thomas-ridden What A Friend emerged as a serious danger but, with Denman back to his 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning best, the young pretender who carries the colours of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, could not outmuscle the market leader, who passed the line three and a half lengths to the good.
Irish Grand National winner Niche Market ran a blinder to fill third (he looks an ideal Aintree National type) for trainer Bob Buckler and jockey Andrew Glassonbury, with Barbers Shop in the colours of the Queen manning fourth for the Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty combination.
There is no doubt that Denman’s showing was one of the best performances by any chaser in a long, long time. To give weight all round to some of the best chasers in training was a terrific achievement and little wonder that champion trainer Nicholls, who looks after the 2005 Liscarroll point-to-point winner for joint-owners Paul Barber and Harry Findlay, was initially stuck for words.
When the Ditcheat handler finally regained his composure, he revealed, “To see that was very special; a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget. I knew he was back to his best and it was a tremendous achievement to carry that weight to victory.”
While Ruby Walsh was elated was his mount’s heroic effort on Saturday, he now faces a huge headache as, all going well in the interim, he will be forced to choose between Kauto Star or Denman in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next March.
At this point, there appears to be very little between the pair and, in these recessionary times, National Hunt racing is lucky to have these two crowd-pullers keeping jump racing on the front pages for all the right reasons.
Presently, the score between Kauto Star and Denman, where the Gold Cup is concerned, stands at 1-1. Denman came out on top when taking the then reigning champion’s title off him at Prestbury Park in 2008 but Kauto got his revenge on his great rival when regaining his crown last March.
Denman’s next outing will be the Aon Chase at Newbury in February, while Kauto Star remains on course for the King George at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day. Let’s hope these two superstars stay in one piece for what would be a sensational third Cheltenham clash between the pair on March 19.
Meanwhile, Noel Meade’s 25/1 shot Go Native upstaged his more fancied rivals when registering a shock win in Saturday’s WBX.Com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
This race featured a clash between leading Champion Hurdle fancies Binocular and Solwhit but both were put to the sword by the Davy Condon-ridden winner.
To be honest, this two-mile contest was farcical as the lack of any early pace makes the form very suspect. Nobody wanted to make the running, resulting in a crawl for over a mile and a half and when the final stages turned into a sprint, it was last season’s Supreme Novices’ winner Go Native who came home best to deny Sublimity by two and a half lengths. Solwhit was a further three and a half lengths away in third, while ante-post champion hurdle favourite Binocular was a huge disappointment when trailing in a well-beaten fourth under champion jockey Tony McCoy.
Charles Byrnes, who was out on luck with Solwhit, had earlier landed a tidy gamble as last season’s Cheltenham hurdle’s winner, Weapon’s Amnesty (9/4 to 11/10 favourite), ran out a good winner of the three-mile novice chase under a patient Davy Russell ride.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Fairyhouse’s star-studded fixture last Sunday was postponed after torrential overnight rain left the County Meath track unraceable. The entire card, which featured three Grade 1 races, was rescheduled for yesterday (Wednesday) with officials confident the meeting would get the green light.