Bishopsfurze enters Cheltenham picture at Clonmel

BISHOPSFURZE kept up trainer Willie Mullins’ amazing strike with a fine display to land the Listed Novice Hurdle over two mile and six - and complere a hat-trick - at Clonmel on Thursday.

BISHOPSFURZE kept up trainer Willie Mullins’ amazing strike with a fine display to land the Listed Novice Hurdle over two mile and six - and complere a hat-trick - at Clonmel on Thursday.

Owned and bred by Kilkennywoman Clare Hurley, the son of Broadway Flyer went to post an odds-on chance. He was always travelling well before taking over going across the top of the track, but few were prepared for what happened in the straight.

The horse came to the second last, still on the bridle, but made a dreadful mistake. It took all of Paul Townend’s considerable skills to keep the partnership intact. Much the same was to follow at the final flight, when he seemed to kick the hurdle out of the way and again lost ground. This allowed stable companion Skorcher to close the gap but he was never able to mount a serious challenge on the race to the line where Bishopsfurze had seven lengths to spare with a further ten lengths back to Fists Of Fury in third place.

In his post-race remarks Mullins revealed that the horse clearly has a big engine to have won three over hurdles with sketchy jumping. He was idling in front but has scant respect for his hurdles. The trainer has nothing in particular in mind for his charge but he holds an entry in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival for which he got a quote of 25/1.

Winning rider Paul Townend is certainly making hay while the sun shines as replacement jockey for the injured Ruby Walsh. This victory put him on the 56 winner mark for the season, one ahead of Paul Carberry and Andrew McNamara in the jockey’s championship.

First win

Mullins went on to complete yet another brace when Dooneys Gate showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals in the two mile and four conditions chase, giving the trainer’s son Patrick his first win over fences.

Again well supported the Oscar gelding, which is owned by the trainer’s wife Jackie, was always close to the pace. Patrick sent him to the front on the downhill run to the straight and from there the combination drew steadily clear to win by 13 lengths from the Tony Martin runner Northern Alliance.

A sound jumper, the winner could be heading for a tilt at the Topham Trophy over the big Aintree fences. What a ride he would give the young jockey around this hallowed circuit.

For the second week running Margaret Mullins and her son Danny combined to visit the winner’s enclosure. This time it was Down In Neworleans that did the business, doing handstands in the second division of the maiden hurdle.

Bred by Peter Magnier, whose brother John is the Coolmore boss, and jointly owned by Peter and Linda Shanahan the Saddlers Hall gelding made most of the running. Increasing the pace from the top of the hill, the winner came home no less than 28 lengths clear of Sorted.

A fine big strapping individual, the six-year-old has taken his time to furnish up and is still not the finished article according to Magnier. He will stay hurdling for the time being before going chasing come the Autumn.

Good for punters

Dessie Hughes got the meeting off to a good start for punters when sending out the well backed Definite Class to land the opening two mile and a furlong maiden hurdle in the hands of 5lb claimer Bryan Cooper. Settled on the tail of the leaders, the Definite Article mare looked in some discomfort coming down the hill but responded well to come with a sustained challenge in the straight before hitting the front almost in the shadow of the post to land the spoils by a length from Davy Russell’s mount Rathlin.

Hughes told me that the six-year-old was gaining just reward for her consistency. She is well related, and will be a valuable asset once she retires to the paddocks.

Tommy Stack will be always be remembered as the jockey who partnered the legendary Red Run to the third of his Grand National victories. Stack trains mostly on the flat but retains the odd jumper, just to keep the yard ticking over during the Winter months. He gained a popular success when Magen’s Star toyed with the opposition in the mares novice hurdle over an extended two miles.

Making it two wins from as many outing over hurdles the daughter of Galileo set off in front and was never in the slightest danger of defeat, winning by 15 lengths from Stephanie Kate. Off the track since November, the winner was confined to her box with a joint infection for a while. She revels in the heavy ground and while she holds a Cheltenham entry she will not travel unless she gets conditions in her favour.

Salsify caused a minor upset when taking the maiden hunters chase for the Roger Sweeney stable at a price of 14/1. A son of the hugely successful Beneficial, which stands at Sean Kinsella’s Knockhouse Stud near Kilmacow, Salsify was a decent enough horse over hurdles before going point to pointing. He showed that he could have a future at this game by leading two out and finding plenty for Ciaran Fennessy to win comfortably by 12 lengths from the well-backed Island Peak.