Gauloise puts down Cheltenham marker with Thurles success

Gauloise maintained her unbeaten record with victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle at Thurles.

The French bumper winner made an impressive Irish debut for Willie Mullins over the course and distance last month and was the 4-5 favourite on her return to County Tipperary for this Listed event.

Having travelled strongly in the hands of champion jockey Paul Townend, Gauloise hit the front between the final two flights and was always doing enough after the last to hold Mighty Blue at bay by three lengths.

The winner carries the colours of owner Kenny Alexander, whose star mare Honeysuckle won this race two years ago.

Mullins said of Gauloise: “At home she has looked like she improved and she has shown me that at the track. Her jumping was good enough, too.

“I think she is going to improve again and the minimum trip is no problem to her.

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“Paul said she took off with him after the second-last and he wasn’t expecting that sort of response. He thinks she had to show stamina to stay after opening up her lead so all in all, it’s looking good for her.”

Paddy Power cut Gauloise to 6-1 from 10-1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Mullins added: “I imagine she might have one more run before Cheltenham, but she looks like she is good enough to go up in grade; her next run will hopefully copper-fasten that.”

Escaria Ten also obliged for favourite-backers in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

Jack Kennedy and Gordon Elliott are a formidable combination
Jack Kennedy and Gordon Elliott are a formidable combination (PA)

Gordon Elliott’s 6-5 shot cruised to a 20-length success under Jack Kennedy, who said afterwards: “He put in a great round of jumping and he is a nice horse. Hopefully he can keep progressing from that.

“He ran well in Fairyhouse the last day over two-five and the step up to three miles today really suited him.”

Elliott and Kennedy doubled up with Frontal Assault (2-1 favourite) in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Rated Novice Hurdle.

Kennedy added: “He is a big galloper and stays all day, but is just lairy enough when he is in front. When something came to him he pulled it out again.”

Donagh Meyler steered Eoin Doyle’s 14-1 shot Key Commander to a victory in the Molony Cup Handicap Chase, before the Joseph O’Brien-trained Jack Dillinger (6-1) recorded a narrow win over Scheu Time in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase under Oakley Brown.

O’Brien’s assistant, Brendan Powell, said: “It is nice to get his head in front again. He was a very decent hurdler and he obviously likes this place as his first run this year was when he finished second here.

“He jumped good and kept at it well. It was Oakley’s third ride back from injury after he broke his wrist in a fall in October – it’s nice for him and it’s his second winner over fences.”

Paul O’Flynn and Darragh O’Keeffe combined to land the Handicap Hurdle with 7-2 market leader West Cork Wildway.

“I shouldn’t have run him the last day in Mallow as the ground was too good for him, but you live and learn and it was nice to get another win up before Christmas,” said O’Flynn.

“He is not the biggest horse, but is unbelievable to jump and I’ll be looking forward to him when he jumps a fence. When he goes over fences you’ll see the real deal.”

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