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Thursday, May 5, 2011



The Philip Hobbs-trained Captain Chris, winner of Cheltenham’s Irish Independent Arkle Chase, justified 4/6 favouritism to take the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase by a length and a quarter from Realt Dubh.


“The second horse is a very good horse and we are pleased to have won,” said Hobbs. “We’ve always felt that two miles is probably a bit short for him. I know he won the Arkle but they say you want a two and a half mile horse to win that race. We’re delighted, very pleased with his performance. I’m chuffed to bits.


“He’s effective over two miles but ideally we’ll be looking for something over two and a half miles for his first run next year. I haven’t got anything obvious yet but maybe the Amlin Chase over two miles and three furlongs at Ascot in November might be a place to go, or maybe, although it’s a handicap, the Haldon Gold Cup (at Exeter) over two and quarter could be a possibility.


“We would be half-thinking about the King George VI Chase but obviously that’s three miles and we don’t know yet if he stays that far but it’s an easy three miles at Kempton.


“Richard (Johnson) is very adamant that good ground is what he needs - he doesn’t want it too soft. He is a very big horse so he wouldn’t want it too firm either. Good ground is perfect for him.


“You have to remember he only had his first run just over 12 months ago so is still very inexperienced really, he was a bit green at times. We can dream through the summer.”


Grahame Whateley, whose wife Diana owns Captain Chris, added: “We love coming to Ireland. It’s actually an Anglo-Irish win as Diana’s grandmother was from the west of Ireland.


“He didn’t jump the greatest today. It’s the end of the season and he needs his summer grass -  he will get it now. I’m really pleased. I think two miles is a minimum for him now, he really needs longer.


“We’ve just got to see whether he can go to two and a half or three miles for the King George. Let’s hope we can get there.”       


Willie Mullins had earlier had his fifth winner of the 2011 Punchestown Festival when 14/1 chance Kerb Appeal took the Naas Court Hotel Handicap Hurdle.




Today’s attendance was 15,527, compared to 15,512 on the same day last year.





The brilliant mare Quevega survived a blunder at the final flight and held off stablemate Mourad to win the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle for a second consecutive year.


“She’s just so athletic, nine out of 10 horses would have fallen there and I can’t believe she came back,” said trainer Willie Mullins, paying tribute to Quevega. “She barely missed a beat, rearranged herself and was galloping again in two strides. She just picked up and beat Mourad, who was flying and has really upped his game.


“I’m thinking about the French Champion Hurdle for her as a next run, there’s  huge prize money out there, but she’ll be going the same route next season. I’m not tempted to take on Big Buck’s and she’ll go back to Cheltenham for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle. But this mare will do it at two miles or three.


“Mourad has had a busier season so we may put him away although there’s a chance he might run on the Flat, there’s probably a nice handicap in him. But he’s definitely one for the World Hurdle next season.”


Just a short-head split the winner Another Jewel and runner-up Let The Show Begin after an epic four miles and a furlong of the Avon Ri Corporate & Leisure Resort Chase for the La Touche Cup over Punchestown’s unique banks course.


“That was very tense!,” said Denis Murphy, Another Jewel’s trainer. “We were unfortunate out there on Tuesday, when two of ours were in front turning in and went wide. I saw the Jewel slipping at the same point and I thought ‘not the same thing again!’ but we got away with it, thank God. He’s experienced around here and that’s a big help.


“John (Cullen) is very good - he knows him inside out and he won on him at Le Lion D’Angers last year. If everything is OK, the plan is to go back to France with him again. We will celebrate tonight and I couldn’t be happier. Let the party begin!”


Tony McCoy had his third success at this year’s Punchestown Festival when steering the Tom Mullins-trained Dr Whizz to a nine-length success in the Kildare Post Handicap Chase.


“He looked like a winner when he fell last time at Gowran Park and he just had to prove what he might have done today,” said Mullins. “He has been very well in himself and I’m not sure if he’ll go for another handicap now, as he won by nine lengths today.”


Owner J P McManus added: “He’s done it nicely in that class. He was a bit unlucky at Gowran Park but the fences are there to be jumped and he missed out on one. Tom and his staff had him looking great today and thankfully he delivered.


“A P (McCoy) seemed quite happy with - he said that he wasn’t quite sure how good he is, but he was good enough to win today.”


Trainer Thomond O’Mara landed the opening AON Hurdle when Tornedo Shay proved four lengths too good for his competition.


“I am delighted. It’s his first time over two and a half miles - he’s needed to go that far because of his jumping and he keeps pulling for his head over two miles. His jumping has really come together over this distance but he was always good horse who just needed to settle,” said O’Mara.


“He’s by Dr Fong out of a Nureyev mare, so the ground has made a difference to him. He’s also dropped down in class today - he’s been operating at Grade Two and Grade One level, so this was definitely a drop back in class. He’s done it well and this will be good for his confidence.


“Galway is definitely in the back of my mind, with the ground being better at that time of year. He could make it into a Galway Hurdle horse and we will probably give him a Flat campaign for the time being.”






The Group One Investec Derby is only a month away and intriguing clues for the £1.25 million Epsom Downs Classic on Saturday, June 4, will be revealed this week with traditional trials taking place at Chester, Lingfield and Leopardstown.


First up is Chester’s Group Three MBNA Chester Vase today (Thursday, May 5), followed tomorrow at the same course by the Group Three Addleshaw Goddard Dee Stakes, while Saturday brings the Group Three totesport.com Derby Trial at Lingfield Park and the Group Two Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial is staged on Sunday.


Marhaba Malyoon was added to the list of Investec Derby entries at a cost of £8,000 at the second entry stage on April 5, and heads to Lingfield on May 7, when the Surrey track hosts the Group Three totesport.com Derby Trial over just short of a mile and a half.


The David Simcock-trained Tiger Hill colt carries the colours of Ahmad Al Shaikh and won his only start to date, a 10-furlong maiden at Bath in September.


Simcock said today: “Marhaba has an ambitious owner who likes his horses to run at the bigger meetings.


“At the same time however, he has pleased us at home and is a horse that will stay well.

“We were very pleased with him last year and have been very pleased with him this season.


“The trip should be no problem at all for him and he may even stay further in time.”


The most recent Lingfield Derby Trial winners to prevail in the Investec Derby are Teenoso (1983), Slip Anchor (1985), Kahyasi (1988) and High-Rise (1998).


Among the seven declared for the Lingfield contest is War Is War, a winning Galileo colt trained by Eoghan O’Neill in France. He also holds an Investec Derby entry and finished fourth on his seasonal reappearance in a Listed contest over nine furlongs at  Maisons-Laffitte on April 18.




In the past 31 years, Shergar (1981) and Henbit (1980) won the Group Three MBNA Chester Vase en route to Investec Derby success, while Quest For Fame was runner-up on the Roodee before winning the Blue Riband in 1990.


Today’s renewal could hold some interesting pointers with Epsom Downs hopeful Nathaniel among the five runners.


The exciting Galileo colt got closer than any other horse to the mighty Frankel when half a length second to the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner in a mile Newmarket maiden last August.


Trained by John Gosden for Lady Rothschild, Nathaniel made a winning seasonal debut at Haydock on April 16 when eased down for a nine-length success at odds of 1/20.


Gosden saddled Benny The Dip to win the 1997 Investec Derby.


The O’Brien-trained Treasure Beach, another with an Investec Derby entry, was last seen finishing third to Frankel in the Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot in September.


Barry Hills is set to saddle Slumber, who landed the Investec Derby Trial over 10 furlongs at Epsom Downs on April 20. The Khalid Abdulla homebred is not engaged in the Investec Derby and would have to be entered for the mile and a half Classic at a cost of £75,000 at the supplementary stage on May 30.






Friday at Chester brings the Group Three Addleshaw Goddard Dee Stakes over an extended 10 furlongs, which Oath (1999) and Kris Kin (2003) recently triumphed  before earning Investec Derby glory.


Six horses are declared to run and although none holds an Investec Derby entry, Kris Kin was supplemented for the Classic after winning this contest and an impressive victory by one of the sextet could result in connections paying the £75,000 supplementary fee to run at Epsom Downs in June.


Godolphin has Laajooj from the stable of recent QIPCO 1,000 Guineas-winning trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni, the twice-raced Azamour colt having won a maiden at Newbury last month.


Barry Hills has the lightly-raced Maqaraat, runner-up to the smart Ocean War in a Newmarket maiden in April, while The Paddyman from the William Haggas yard was runner-up in Goodwood’s Group Two Richmond Stakes last season and Clive Brittain is set to run the well-regarded Kingmambo colt Tlaad.




Four horses in the past 20 years have won the 10-furlong Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial en route to Investec Derby glory and the Group Two contest at Leopardstown on Sunday, May 8, has 13 entries, nine of which hold engagements in the Epsom Downs Classic.


Aidan O’Brien has won the race on eight occasions, including with subsequent Investec Derby winners Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002).


The Ballydoyle trainer has eight entered for Sunday’s contest, including Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Recital who was third to Banimpire in the Group Three Ballysax Stakes in April, and Regent Street, runner-up on that occasion.


Also among the O’Brien contingent are Group One Racing Post Trophy runner-up Seville and the unexposed pair of Last Crusade and Memphis Tennessee.


Dermot Weld has won the race on multiple occasions and is one of only three trainers to have broken O’Brien’s domination in the past 14 years. He could saddle impressive Tipperary maiden winner Notable Graduate.


John Oxx completed the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial/Investec Derby double with the mighty Sinndar in 2000 and saw Alamshar finish a close third in the 2003 Investec Derby after winning the Leopardstown race. He could run Navan winner Zanughan. The trainer also took the premier Classic with the brilliant Sea The Stars in 2009.


Easy Cork maiden winner Giant Step, trained by David Wachman, also holds an Investec Derby entry.


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