WHAT WAS supposed to be a routine race for Minsk was anything but as the Triumph Hurdle favourite failed to cope with the challenge of the Kieran Purcell-trained Burrenbridge Lodge in the Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
Considering that he was making his hurdling debut, it was crazy to see Minsk top the ratings for the Cheltenham showpiece, but Purcell’s charge put him firmly in his place with a staying performance. On the go since he landed the opening juvenile hurdle of the season at Roscommon back in August, it pays a handsome compliment to the skills of Windgap-based Purcell as a trainer that he has kept the horse fresh and well as he has raced in the best of company ever since.
Never out of the leading group, Burrenbridge Lodge took a definite advantage before the second last. He surrendered the advantage there, but pinged the final flight and battled all the way to the line where he had a neck to spare over Minsk with the long-time leader Bat Masterson a head further back in third place.
In defying a winner’s penalty the Ivan Denisovich gelding showed what a tough campaigner he is. The trainer told me that he will now give his charge a break and bring him back in time for the Punchestown festival. Purcell also sang the praised of Inistioge-born jockey Tom Doyle, who rides out for the stable every Wednesday and is a huge help in assessing a horse’s ability.
Willie Mullins looks to have a nice Aintree prospect in the shape of Prince De Beauchene which ran out a comfortable enough winner of the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase over three mile and a furlong. Starting favourite, the French-bred tracked the leaders for much of the journey before taking over ahead of the straight, staying on strongly to account for Black Apalachi by six lengths.
One of several horses sent to Mullins by owner Graham Wylie, the winner will now go to the Liverpool track with another outing, carrying plenty of Irish money over the big national fences.
Back In A Tick, which was having her first outing since November, created a 25/1 upset in the two mile and four mares hurdle to credit Bagenalstown handler Colin Kidd with a welcome change of luck.
Settled off the pace, the daughter of Flemensfirth made eye-catching progress from the six furlong marker to be in contention turning to face the judge. Jockey Sean McDermott sent her to the front between the final couple of hurdles and she ran on strongly to see off Flaming Top by three lengths.
A novice event at Limerick over St Patrick’s Weekend now awaits the winner. On this evidence she will not be very far away.
Kieran Purcell and Tom Doyle were back in the winner’s enclosure at Naas on Sunday when Paddy Pub stole the show with an exciting victory in the 96-106 handicap hurdle over three miles.
Better known as a decent chaser, the Oscar gelding made little impression in the Thyestes Chase but put his best foot forward this time, staying with the pace right from the drop of the flag. Jumping the last, the favourite One In A Milan held a slight advantage but Doyle coaxed a renewed effort from Paddy Pub up the hill. In a welter of excitement he just head the late charge of Castle Wings by a neck with One In A Milan a head further in arrears.
This was a nice confidence-boosting success for Paddy Pub. If he returns to his best form over fences he is still capable of adding to his collection.
Felix Younger handled the drop back in trip in his stride to capture the Grade Two Novice hurdle for the Willie Mullins stable. A Musselburgh bumper winner when trained by Howard Johnson, the six-year-old opened his hurdling account at the second attempt at Downpatrick in December and gave the right vibes to take the bulk of the money in the betting ring.
Always close up, Felix Younger was driven to the front by Ruby Walsh after the penultimate hurdle and responded well to the urgings of his rider to take the money by three lengths from Dressestothenines. Better ground would be in the winner’s favour and he will most likely be on the Mullins team for the Cheltenham festival.
Mullins was confidently expected to take the bumper with The Paparazzi Kid but after looking an assured winner early in the straight he found little when young John O’Neill produced a renewed effort from Rory O’Moore in the closing stages and had top be content with second place.
Home-bred by Debbie O’Neill and trained by her father Ronnie near Kells, the Stowaway gelding was reverting to the level after a couple of unsuccessful outings over hurdles. He set off in front but looked in trouble when The Paparazzi Kid came to throw down his challenge, but to his credit he battled all the way to the line for a deserved victory.