The world's his oyster
Irish Eyes reflects on a week that saw a contender emerge for the world's richest jumps race, a 33/1 winning gamble and a €375,000 horse that is favourite for the Cheltenham Bumper.
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Rule The World went some way towards living up to his hefty nametag when he ran out a very comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Slaney Hurdle at Naas last Sunday. Champagne Fever only managed third as the 1/4 favourite but he was found to have a respiratory tract infection when examined afterwards. Nevertheless, Rule The World has now only ever been beaten once in his career and that was when he was touch off by subsequent Grade 3 winner Our Vinnie at Cork and his form has no holes in it whatsoever. His trainer Mouse Morris has never hidden his admiration for the horse and he will head to Cheltenham in March for one of the staying novice hurdles. Whatever beats him will certainly know they've had a race and he is a best priced 12/1 for the Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle.
Jennie's Jewel upset the Willie Mullins trained odds-on shot Upzao in the maiden hurdle. Napped up in this column over the Christmas, Jarlath Fahey's mare got bogged down in very heavy ground at Limerick. She bounced back in good style to win at 6/1 and looks like a mare that will make her mark in graded company over the coming months.
Willie Mullins had better luck in the Novice Chase where Marito came out the better of a tremendous tussle with Mount Benbulben, the pair ten lengths clear of Jenari in third. This was a good performance and his trainer indicated he will step up into Grade 1 company next in either the Arkle Chase of the Drinmore, both at Leopardstown.
Our Girl Salley was beaten a neck by the game Charlie's Vic in the Mares Beginners Chase. Our Girl Salley has now filled the runner-up spot on all four of her outings over the larger obstacles. She probably needs at least two and a half miles to be seen at her best and it is but a matter of time before she wins one of these over that trip or further.
Dermot Weld's Grecian Tiger was all the rage in the concluding bumper, having been backed from 6/5 in the morning down to an SP of 8/15 and he ran out a one length winner. He appeared to get a little tired near the end and we will know more about him if he takes up his engagement in the four-year-old's winner's bumper at Leopardstown at the end of the month.
There was certainly no shortage of action or news stories from Cork's meeting on Saturday.
Blackstairsmountain kicked off a Willie Mullins trained treble by winning the first on the card, a conditions hurdle event. Immediately after the race, Mullins nominated an unusual international target for him as far away as Japan! The Nakayama Grand Jump is the richest jump race in the world run over an extended 2 ½ miles on April 14th and with £26,000 on offer for finishing back in eight place, one can see why connections are considering the race. He bid's to become the first Irish-trained, and indeed the first non-Japanese trained, winner of the race. Ireland has already produced the winner of Japan's biggest flat race when Stanerra became the first European trained winner of the 1983 Japan Cup for trainer Frank Dunne, so now it's Willie Mullins turn to try to bring home Japan's biggest jump prize 30 years later
Fresh from that news, attention turned to the second race, a run of the mill 4yo hurdle. Dalasari was as big as 100/1 with some bookmakers in the morning but connections held tough at those prices but backed him on the track from an opening show of 33/1 all the way down to 9/2. He led from 4 out and the win never looked in doubt as he powered home to win by 2 ¾ lengths. Sabrina Harty's gelding had run reasonably well on his racecourse debut at Leopardstown just 9 days previously where he finished eleventh of seventeen and but for a couple of errors he would have finished closer. Dropped down in class to this Cork race, he should never have been much more than a 14/1 shot at best, so this was obviously just a case of all the firms following each other and ending up getting badly caught out! It is a good example of how bookmakers can be lazy and are open to being beaten from time to time.
Midnight Oil was a good winner of the maiden hurdle on his fourth start over flights and trainer Willie Mullins stated he will step up to Graded company next. At this stage though, he looks a more likely contender for domestic events rather than the Cheltenham festival.
The bumper was to conclude a very eventful afternoon and Sean O'Brien, who has his horses in tremendous form and indeed won the preceding race with Wilde Wit Pleasure, supplied the favourite in the form of Golantilla. The son of Golan had won his point-to-point at Avaune/Dungourney by ten lengths in December. The O'Briens brought him to the sales at Cheltenham just 5 days later where he was led out unsold at £190,000. Therefore the pressure on them was phenomenal at Cork last Saturday as if he failed to win; his value would have decreased significantly. However, they claim they never doubted their steed and it was easy to see why as he proceeded to win by a massive thirteen lengths! Fast forward just three days later and they have sold him for €375,000 to join Tony Martin's string!! Golantilla currently trades as the clear favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
So there you have it, a contender for the richest jumps race in the world which takes place in Japan, a 33/1 winning gamble that returned at 9/2 and a €375,000 horse that is favourite for the Cheltenham Bumper....there's no such thing as a boring meeting at Cork!
Finally, the highlight of the meeting at Fairyhouse on Wednesday was the victory for Liz Lawlor in the concluding bumper on Carrigeen Lonicera. Well backed from 8/1 into 9/2, the mare went into an early lead before being headed. However she fought back again to win by two-and-three-quarter lengths at the finish. Liz had sustained serious head and neck injuries when she was concussed following a fall at a point-to-point last May and this was her first winner since her return. Trained and bred by her father Dick Lawlor, she looks a decent mare and this won't be the last we hear of her.