THE Shark Hanlon-trained Hidden Cyclone entered the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture with a comprehensive victory in the two mile and four conditions chase at Gowran Park on Saturday, writes Ned Tierney.
Given a positive ride by Andrew McNamara, the Stowaway gelding was in the firing line right from the drop of the flag. Taking control of the race as early as the third fence, Cyclone made the rest to record a comfortable four and a quarter length victory over the Willie Mullins runner Call The Police.
Having scored a workmanlike success over Foildubh in a two mile Grade Three contest at Naas on his seasonal reappearance Hidden Cyclone proved to be the punters’ choice. This was despite a high level of confidence behind Call The Police, which had not run since falling at the Punchestown festival back in May. There were many who felt that his jumping was not good enough at this level to be a major force in some of the top chases, never mind the Gold Cup, but he answered his critics in the most emphatic fashion by never putting a foot astray.
In his post-race remarks Hanlon revealed that his charge enjoyed himself when allowed to bowl along at a decent clip. Hanlon will consult with the owners but is keen to take in the Lexus over three miles at the big Leopardstown Christmas meeting and take it from there.
While the Gold Cup is a lofty target the horse could do no more that win as he did. This season’s event has a very open look about it at this stage.
While Call The Police only won once as a novice he campaigned at the highest level. He looked a high class recruit and it will come as a major surprise if he fails to win a decent pot somewhere along the line.
Not for the first time Mullins rewarded his faithful following at his local track by recording a three-timer. He got the meeting away to the perfect start when the French import Diakali showed a clean pair of heels to his field in the juvenile hurdle under Paul Townend.
Backed as though defeat was out of the question, Diakali tracked the leaders early on before hitting the front going down the back straight. Coming home, the winner was in splendid isolation, some 12 lengths to the good over the Eoin Doyle representative Crouching Harry.
While races like this are notoriously difficult to assess there is no doubt but the winner is respectable. However, he has a long way to go if he is to recoup the E160,000 he cost in his native land. The trainer seems to have plenty of trial tackle at this level and it will be interesting to see how places his charges from now on.
Another French import, Reine Angevine, was next into the fray for Mullins. She readily disposed of her field to justify favouritism in the novice hurdle over two mile.
Never too far off the pace, the four-year-old edged in front around the half-way point and was never subsequently headed. Blacklough followed her home six lengths adrift but in truth never looked like posing a serious challenge.
Of the runners the Mouse Morris charge Rogue Angel was a shade disappointing. Disqualified after winning the Land Rover bumper the son of Presenting was well supported having sluiced up in his maiden hurdle, but the distress signals were out in the straight. Although he finished third, he was a long way off the leaders.
According to Mullins, the winner will be kept to mares races this term. It will take something special to lower her colours.
Mullins completed his nap hand when he took the two mile and a half beginners for the third time on the bounce courtesy of Aupcharlie which made the transition from hurdling look easy.
A high class bumper horse, Aupcharlie had scored over hurdles at Leopardstown back in January having been an expensive failure at the Christmas meeting. He has taken to fences like a duck to water and, after taking over before the straight, beat Toon River by 11 lengths almost without coming off the bridle.
Staying is obviously his game so we can look forward to seeing plenty of him in some of the top staying novice events in the months ahead.
Tom Foley’s runner Whatdreamsrmadeof enjoyed plenty of support for the two mile 80-95 handicap hurdle but, after a prominent showing, had to play second fiddle to the Arthur Moore-trained Treat Yourself. A consistent, if luckless, mare the seven-year-old looked as though she had at last found a winning opportunity when leading three out, but was unable to withstand the late flourish of Treat Yourself and went down by five lengths.
Happy New Year has been called some parliamentary names by many - including his trainer Oliver McKiernan. However, he finally came good when taking the three mile handicap hurdle under 7lb claimer Shane Crimin.
Ahead shortly after the start, Happy New Year kept responding to the urgings of his young rider to take the money by five lengths from Jupitor.
McKiernan reported post-race that the horse is not short on ability but has a mind of his own as to how much he will do. If he is in the right frame of mind he is capable of building on this initial success.