Cougar roars to victory in the first race on Champion Chase Day (JTW Equine Images)
By Tom Williams
The day started with a well-earned success for the Padraig Roche-trained Cougar, who took the Value Cabs 3yo Hurdle under jockey Mark Walsh in rain softened Antrim soil.
Formerly trained by Aidan O’Brien, the J.P McManus owned entire was in a good position throughout the contest, and although pressed by debutant New Years Honours, previously trained by Ralph Beckett and making her debut for Gordon Elliott, he stood up to the challenge.
A son of the fine Japanese sire Deep Impact, he knuckled down to fight and won going away by 3 lengths, maintaining his unbeaten record over hurdles and making it 2 from 2.
Once entered for the Epsom Derby, he looks to be a leading contender for major juvenile races this season, having scooped a race that has given us Fil Dor, A Wave Of The Sea and Quilixios in recent years.
His trainer was suitably impressed post race, stating that he was “delighted” with the performance and the opportunity to have him.
“Mark ( Walsh, jockey ) said he jumped great and is getting better all the time. He is one to look forward to”.
On future plans, Frank Berry, racing manager for J.P.McManus, suggested that the Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December may well be the winner’s next port of call.
It was a quickfire double for the owner, but not in the manner the betting suggested. Having been all the talk beforehand, the 4/9F Foxfire Glow could only manage third in the Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle.
It was another of the owner’s vast array of talent that came through to win, as debutant Invictus Machin scythed his way past the opposition to take the contest under a masterful ride from Keith Donoghue for trainer Gavin Cromwell at odds of 12/1.
Settled in the rear of the race, he made steady progress in the heavy conditions to gradually pick off rivals one by one. Having looked booked for a place, he crept through the weakening rivals to almost jump into the back of the leaders at the last.
Sailing past after the final obstacle, he powered away to score by 5 lengths to 66/1 fancy The Wallpark.
Speaking afterwards, Gavin Cromwell stated that he would have been “disappointed” if he didn’t run well. “He showed his ability”, he noted afterwards.
“He is a fine stamp of a horse, and one to look forward to next year”.
It became a double for trainer and jockey as Final Orders made it 3 wins on the bounce in the “Start Your Free Trial At racingtv.com” Handicap Chase for owners the C M D Syndicate.
Sent off the 2/1F after wins at Killarney and Cork last month, the 6 year old son of Camelot fought on gamely to score by three quarters of a length to Archies Charm, having taken charge of the contest after the ninth.
He and Archies Charm pulled clear of the remainder of the field as they bypassed the usual third last, and knuckled down to fight out the end to a thrilling handicap chase.
Still a novice over fences, it appears that Gavin Cromwell may have an exciting horse to play their cards with later in the season. Watch this space.
Nibiru needs to be delivered when the cheeseboard has been served, but his customary finish served him well as he collared Watch The Weather and Pinkerton in the final strides of the Charles Hurst DS Handicap Hurdle.
The 13/2 chance was delivered as late as possible by jockey Phillip Enright to seal the victory and break the hearts of his rivals for trainer A J Martin and owner John Breslin, who love to plunder a good Handicap Hurdle, whether it be the race today or others such as the Galway Hurdle, of which they are three time winners of ( Quick Jack in 2015 and Tudor City in 2019 & 2022 ).
Delivered to perfection by his jockey, he stole victory from under the nose of Rachael Blackmore and Watch The Weather, with his trainer noting that the winning duo were “very good”.
Of the winner, he added that “he needs a lead for as long as he can ( get )”.
“He has a bit of a mind of his own…. He doesn’t like being crowded”.
As the saying goes, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Fury Road was made to work for victory in the Grade 2 Eventsec Chase, having to fend off the persistent Delvino to register a victory on the day for trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud.
The 7/2 chance challenged the long time leader Delvino with two fences to go, but the leader would not give in and let the Grade 1 winner past without a fight, battling them all the way to the line.
The nearly 1 and a half stone difference was almost instrumental in addition, but the winner of last season’s Grade 1 Neville’s Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December 2021 proved his class when it mattered, battling hard to wear down the brave underdog under Jack Kennedy.
The trip was a little on the short side, having last been seen running over 3 miles behind Ahoy Senor at Aintree and Capodanno at Punchestown, but it was a good starting point for the horse, and made sure that his trainer did not suffer a shock defeat at a meeting he targets with unhinged accuracy.
Speaking afterwards, Gordon was full of praise for his charge’s talent and bravery.
“He wasn’t in love with the ground, but he got his head in front. He will improve for that”.
“He will probably step up in trip now”, he added, suggesting that it may well be Leopardstown at Christmas when we see him again for the Savills Chase.
It was a double on the card for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud as the exciting Portrush 4 Year Old Maiden winner King Of Kingsfield made his Rules debut a winning one in the concluding Ladbrokes Pro/Am Flat Race under Mr Jamie Codd.
Whilst it was not the 30 length victory his only start to date was, it was a performance that oozed class as he ground out the victory in heavy conditions, giving a stone and a four length beating to Faulty, the pair a further five lengths ahead of the Willie Mullins trained Honky Tonk, another debutant.
He kept on well in conditions that were at the opposite end of the scale to his dominant, impressive performance at the end of March this year, with his stamina coming into play to leave his rivals toiling in his slipstream, and his experienced and revered pilot keeping him up to his work to sustain his gallop and put the race to bed in good style.
It was a performance that suggested he would be a fine stayer, so whether he sticks with the same route as last year’s winner American Mike and contests bumpers this season, or goes over hurdles such as the 2019 winner Easywork did, he remains a horse to be excited about as the winter game rolls on throughout the next couple of months.