Red Mills Day is always a huge attraction at Gowran Park and Saturday’s renewal was no exception.
Both the Red Mills Chase and the Red Mills Hurdle carry Grade Two status and in the former event we saw Rubi Light book his ticket to Cheltenham and a crack at the Ryanair Chase with an ultra smooth display. Having failed to see out the three mile trip of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown the seven-year-old found this two mile and four event much more to his liking and went to post a hot favourite to win the race for the second year in succession.
Partnered by Andrew Lynch, Rubi Light set off in front and never saw another rival as he came home 16 lengths clear of Chicago Grey with Apt Approach a further six lengths back in third place. This was as impressive a display as one could wish to see by the winner who, apart from a slight error at the second last fence, had foot-perfect jumping.
Trainer Robbie Hennessy told me that he was delighted with the performance. The French-bred is a stronger horse this term and the only fear is that if the going comes up quick at Cheltenham.
Rubi Light is best with plenty of ease in the ground. If he gets that at the Cotswolds venue he is well capable of improving on his third placing of last year.
Chicago Grey ran a creditable race but the Willie Mullins runner Apt Approach was something of a disappointment. Going for a four-timer, the Bob Back gelding was close up early on but began to tread water going down the back straight and finished well adrift. This was certainly not his running and hopefully something will come to light as to why he performed so poorly.
Mullins had better luck in the Red Mills Hurdle when Zaidpour kept up his winning ways with a smooth success in the hands of Paul Townend. Dropping to two miles for the first time this season the Red Ransom gelding was the only one that punters wanted to know about and as a consequence he was at restricted odds.
Townend was content to track the leaders early on as Gimli’s Rock made the running. The pattern of the race changed completely leaving the back straight when Zaidpour was eased to the front. From there he made the rest to win impressively by six and a half lengths from Kalann.
After a poor campaign last year the six-year-old has remained unbeaten so far this season. He holds entries for both the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the world hurdle but is unlikely to travel and will concentrate on the home circuit instead.
Racing got underway with a workmanlike success for the Jim Dreaper-trained Harpsy Cord in the two mile and two beginners chase.
In what looked like a competitive affair to son of Accordion started favourite, mainly because of a good effort when finishing second to the well regarded Soll at Down Royal. Never out of the leading group Harpsy Cord took over shortly after the halfway stage but had to be well stoked up before getting the better of Sole Witness by a length and a half.
Chaser in the making
A maiden hurdle winner last season, Harpsy Cord has always looked a chaser in the making. Dreaper told me that the horse underwent a wind operation in the Autumn which has made a big difference to him and three miles is likely to be his best trip.
Grand National winning handler Jimmy Mangan is enjoying plenty of success and added to his collection when saddling Kilcrea to take the bumper in the hands of his daughter Jane. Starting favourite the Definite Article gelding raced in mid division before making eye-catching progress on the run towards the straight to land the spoils by a couple of lengths.
Mangan revealed that he holds the winner in high regard. He was beaten by a smart horse in Clonbanan Lad at Limerick and will now attempt to defy a penalty in a winners’ contest.
Johnstown trainer Michelle Gannon made a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure at Fairyhouse on Wednesday when Knockmehill Lady captured the 81-94 handicap hurdle. The trainer had a bad accident a couple of years ago when a horse came down on her and spent three months in hospital. She also runs a public uphill gallop on her farm which is used by many of the top trainers. In Knockmehill Lady she has an animal that is tough and genuine, so further victories can be expected.
Inistioge-based John Clifford was another local trainer to visit the winner’s enclosure during the week when Sumkindasuprstar gained a narrow victory in the two and a half mile novice handicap chase at Clonmel on Thursday. Given a fine ride by young Ben Dalton the eight-year-old arrived on the scene coming down the hill to the straight and after jumping the last bin front kept pulling out enough to defeat The Book Thief by three-parts of a length.
A good winner at Limerick over the Christmas period, Sumkindasuprstar is very consistent. On this evidence the horse is well capable of providing its trainer with further success.