Brian Hamilton’s Warne made a winning return to action at Kirkistown in an Open event last Saturday. The ten year old hadn’tbeen seen out since finishing fourth in a Killarney Hunter Chase having been sent off favourite back in May last year. The son of Bob Back had earlier appeared a little unlucky in running having been taken wide when beaten less than six lengths in the Aintree Foxhunters over the big fences at the Merseyside venue and he looks likely to chase more Hunter Chase success in the Emerald Isle prior to attempting to avenge that defeat. On this particular occasion the Declan Lavery-ridden gelding eased clear from two out to see of multiple Open winner Slippers Percy for an exceptionally impressive victory and he looks one to follow in the coming months.
The main action in Ireland on Sunday came at Ballinaboola where the 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Quel Esprit made a successful return to action between the flags to see off Arctic Mick and former stablemate Sports Line by a distance under Katie Walsh. The ten year old broke his maiden between the flags at Dundrum as a four year old but hadn’t been seen in action since pulling up in the Grand National of 2013. That Hennessy success rules the grey out of UK Hunter Chases for 2014 so he’s likely to have his next outing on the 2014 Hennessy card at Leopardstown in two weeks time with Patrick Mullins likely to take over in the saddle.
They were the main successes to take from last weekend’s action but one particular maiden performance stood out down in the South West at Chipley Park. Tom Lacey’s The Drinkymeister had made a solid debut at Chaddesley Corbett over Christmas when finishing runner-up at the Midlands venue and he went one better when seeing off eight rivals at Chipley Park on Sunday . The performance stood out as much for the winning time which was bettered only by the seventeen runner Mixed Open and the Intermediate event as for the manner of victory. The Drinkymeister is a five year old son of Heron Island from a family that includes plenty of pointing winners in addition to his rules winning siblings Brenin Cwmtudu and Seren Cwmtudu and he looks likely to have a successful rules career to whoever should buy him at tomorrow’s Brightwells Cheltenham Sale.
All eyes will be on Cheltenham this Saturday for the traditional Cheltenham Festival trials day but the most interesting ex-pointer contesting a major race on this day is surely Harry The Viking at Doncaster. Paul Nicholls charge was well fancied to score here last month when sent off favourite for a three mile handicap chase on good ground but he proved somewhat disappointing as a tailed off seventh. The nine year old had excuses on that occasion having been bumped when jumping the first fence and after a further five pound drop he is now down to his last winning mark which came when beating Ikorodu Road over this course in December 2011.
Avidius Cassius could make his belated rules debut in a Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown this coming Saturday and Noel Meade’s charge will be making his first appearance on a track of any sort since scoring in a Maiden Point at Whitwick Manor for former trainer Tom Lacey back in 2012. The gelding was receiving a hefty weight allowance from his more experienced rivals on that occasion and it will be interesting to see exactly how he fares should he make his hurdling bow in this particular event.
Two former pointers could contest the concluding bumper at Leopardstown on Sunday and they include the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Measureofmydreams. Trainer Willie Mullins has debuted a number of useful performers at Leopardstown in recent seasons including ex-pointers and subsequent Grade 1 winners Champagne Fever and Ballycasey. Measureofmydreams scored at the second attempt in points at Quakerstown (incidentally where Champagne Fever scored in his maiden) for his former trainer Pat Doyle when quickening up well to defeat Lough Derg Island by four lengths in a fast time having been left clear by the fall of Guiding George. Prior to that the son of winning pointer Le Bavellen had finished a solid second at Kildorry on his pointing debut eleven months ago. The bay gelding hasn’t been seen in action since that Quakerstown performance but he looked potentially very useful on that occasion and looks likely to play a big part in this bumper. The now Tony Martin-trained Marinero is the second winning pointer in this event having taken a small field Four Year Old Maiden for Eoin Doyle in March last year. Ridden by jockey Pat Collins the gelding proved one length too good for Germany Calling in a seven runner event at Ballydurn and he looks as if he will benefit for a greater test of stamina than this in time.
Warren Greatrex could saddle the exciting Tsar Alexandre in the opening Novices Hurdle at Sedgefield this coming Sunday. The gelding registered success at the first attempt in a Bangor-On-Dee point back in March at the chief expense of subsequent dual winner Penang Island with the third and fourth also both tasting success since. The then Phil Rowley-trained gelding tasted defeat for the first time in his career when a well beaten second having been sent off an odds-on favourite in atrocious conditions in a Restricted event at Maisemore Park the following month. Nine set out for that particular event with only Tsar Alexandre and the winner Doc Wells completing the course and he shaped like a potentially nice staying chaser but coming from the Greatrex yard he should be able to make his mark over smaller obstacles prior to going chasing.
Four time point winner The Wealerdealer is entered up at Plumpton this coming Monday under race conditions that look far more likely to suit him than those he’s been encountering thus far in his rules career. The David Pipe-trained gelding has obtained a handicap mark of 101 over hurdles having been well beaten on all three outings in Novice Hurdles at up to 2m6f thus far. The seven year old son of Vinnie Roe stayed the trip well in points and scored on heavy ground at Larkhill back in March and can take this particular staying hurdle now that he tackles handicap company for the first time.
Divine Intavention is another multiple winning pointer and his biggest claim to fame is that he finished runner-up (albeit at a safe distance) behind Salsify in last year’s Foxhunters’ at the Cheltenham Festival. The ten year old has yet to face handicap company in his career with the handicapper seemingly of the opinion that the son of Exit To Nowhere has deteriorated in recent seasons having dropped him to a mark of 109 after suffering defeat at the hands of Rumbury Grey at Cheltenham back in May. The now Martin Keighley-trained gelding has been beaten each of the last twice and hasn’t been seen since finishing runner-up to Hawkeye Native at Fontwell back in May but he’s moved to a useful yard and can take this for owner Harold Wilson.