ALL roads will lead to Gowran Park for what promises to be a great day’s racing tomorrow (Thursday), writes Ned Tierney..
The feature event on the day will be the Grade A Thyestes Handicap Chase over three miles.
First run in 1954, when it was won by Prince Of Devon, the Thyestes is one of the biggest races on the Irish calendar. With a prize-fund of E80,000 it is by far the most valuable in the South East - and almost a national holiday in Kilkenny!
Some of the greatest horses in Irish racing have had their names inscribed on the trophy, including the mare Kerforo back in 1962 and the mighty Arkle in 1964 - the same year that he landed the first of his three Cheltenham Gold Cups. Another famous winner was the incomparable Flyingbolt who, but for being born in the same era as Arkle, would probably be regarded as the greatest of all time.
Thursday’s contest has a quality entry but at the time of writing it’s impossible to sum up the race as trainers still have a couple of days to announce their intentions.
Willie Mullins has won the race four times, including in 2004 when he saddled Hedgehunter before going on to capture the Aintree Grand National. He will have his usual strong entry this year, including the top weight Call The Police.
Further down the handicap Come To The Party from the Mooncoin yard of Eoin Doyle has a nice racing weight. If facing the starter he could well give a good account of himself.
Ground conditions were bottomless at Naas on Saturday as Willie Mullins recorded a double, but it was jockey Davy Russell who stole the show with a fabulous four-timer.
Morning Assembly set the ball rolling for Russell with a workmanlike success in the opening maiden hurdle over two mile and three. Always close to the pace, the son of Shantou struck for home at the penultimate flight and pulled out plenty to land the spoils by half a length from Mad Brian.
Trained near Leighlinbridge by Pat Fahy, the winner will have an entry for the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham. He is considered to be a better horse on decent ground.
Solwhit made it two for Russell with a impressive victory in the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle over two mile and three.
Starting at a shade of odds-on the nine-year-old was never too far off the pace, taking the lead after the second last before running on strongly to beat the Mullins runner So Young by four lengths.
Considered to be a Champion Hurdle prospect before injury blighted his career Solwhit spent a couple of years on the sidelines before making his return at Punchestown a few weeks ago. He performed well on that occasion, finishing second to Bog Warrior and clearly has gone the right way in the interim.
Winning trainer Charles Byrnes revealed that this was a most satisfying display considering all the problems his charge has encountered. The World Hurdle at Cheltenham is a possibility, as is the French Champion Hurdle, but the ground will eventually decide as the horse must have soft conditions.
Poised for success
Tofino Bay gave Russell his third winner when he beat another Mullins runner Aupcharlie in the Grade Three Novice Chase over three miles. Aupcharlie, a warm order in the betting, looked poised for success until making a slight error at the penultimate fence. Although he subsequently hit the front he was reeled in close to the line by Tofino Bay.
Both Tofino Bay and Aupcharlie look to be exceptional novices. The winner, which turned his Leopardstown form with Aupcharlie right around, will now have the Dr P.J. Moriarty Chase at the Foxrock venue as his next assignment according to handler Dessie Hughes.
Mullins finally opened his account and gave Russell winner number four when Un Atout destroyed the field to land the two mile novice hurdle.
Rory O’Moore from the Ronnie O’Neill yard set the pace but was in trouble off the home turn and once Un Atout arrived on the scene the race was over in a matter of strides as the French import quickened clear to win unchallenged by 19 lengths.
This must rate as a high class display as Rory O’Moore is a decent animal. The Supreme Novices now beckons for Un Atout, but he may take in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle along the way.
With jump racing cross the water cancelled Ruby Walsh was forced to stay at home but he made most of the setback by teaming up with Mullins to capture the 100-112 handicap hurdle on board Tennis Cap.
Making every post a winning one, the six-year-old ran on strongly from the second last to beat Beneficial Spirit by five lengths. Different riding tactics made an obvious different here and being allowed to bowl along looks the key to the son of Snow Cap, who has been expensive to follow.