Abacadabras just magic in Aintree Hurdle

Abacadabras made amends for crashing out at Cheltenham when taking Grade One honours in the Betway Aintree Hurdle at the Liverpool course.

The Denise Foster-trained seven-year-old exited at the third flight in the Champion Hurdle – but bounced back to strike in the hands of Jack Kennedy.

Abacadabras (5-1) had the loose Jason The Militant for company in the closing stages and kept on strongly to hold Buzz by a length and a quarter, with Millers Bank two and a quarter lengths in third and Buveur D’Air fourth.

The latter was leading when Jason The Militant, who unseated Rachael Blackmore after jumping the seventh flight, went across him at the second-last.

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The winner is owned by Gigginstown House Stud, whose racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “We thought he’d go well at Cheltenham, but he was unlucky there.

“There was no question he stayed the (two-and-a-half-mile) trip. He can idle in front and he’s been called some names in the past, but if you go through his form this season he’s had excuses.

“He needed the run the first day, he won nicely next time, he scoped badly at Leopardstown over Christmas then the ground was too heavy in the Irish Champion.

“It was unfortunate what happened at Cheltenham, but he was very good today. Jack was very good on him and I’m delighted for all at Cullentra.

“We actually thought he was a little unlucky against Shishkin as a novice, we were actually coming back at him at the line (in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle).”

Looking to the future, O’Leary said: “Hopefully he’ll come home with a smile on his face and there’s a chance he could go to Punchestown.

“I’d imagine he’ll stay hurdling next season, but we’ll have a chat about that later on.”

Abacadabras and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Betway Aintree Hurdle
Abacadabras and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Betway Aintree Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Representing Foster was Lisa O’Neill, who said: “It was disappointing at Cheltenham. Everything seems to have worked out well and it’s great he could come here today and prove himself at this level again.

“He seemed perfectly fine after his fall. He came out of it really well so this was an option coming soon enough, but because he felt good we took the opportunity.

“He was second to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle and he won the Morgiana back in November so we were confident he was going to run well coming here. It was a step up in trip, but it really suited him.

“It’s a possibility he could go to Punchestown. We’ll take him home and see how he is after the run and see what the owners want to do.”

Abacadabras weaves Morgiana magic

Abacadabras denied Willie Mullins a 10th successive win in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown as he beat Saint Roi by a neck in a thrilling finish.

Narrowly denied in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March, Abacadabras was beaten on his return to action at Down Royal while County Hurdle winner Saint Roi had cruised to victory at Tipperary last month.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite, Saint Roi appeared to be going as well as anything turning into the straight, but Mark Walsh was soon struggling for racing room.

Coeur Sublime briefly threatened to break away, only to be reeled in by Jason The Militant before the Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras (13-8) hit the front under Jack Kennedy.

Saint Roi got going after the last and was closing all the time, but as Walsh forced his way between the eventual winner and Jason The Militant, the line came too soon with Abadcadabras holding on.

Elliott said: “I definitely knew he’d improve from Down Royal, where he took a blow after the second last. He came forward from the run and he needed to in a race like that.

“It was a good performance and he’d be better suited by a strongly-run race on better ground and produced later. Jack had to go on when he did.

“The logical next race is Leopardstown at Christmas.”

Kennedy said: “I was happy enough the whole way. Just coming across the bottom, he put in a few clumsy jumps.

“I got there way too soon. When it was Coeur Sublime beside me, I wanted to get him under pressure as he hadn’t had a run this season and my lad did. It worked out that I was there too soon and he idled in front.

“A stronger gallop would have suited. I was waiting for them to come at me, but the line came in time.”

Key date for Elliott as stable stars return at Down Royal

It will be a key day for Gordon Elliott on Friday as he sends both Envoi Allen and Abacadabras into action at Down Royal.

Elliott is a high-profile presence at the two-day meeting, dominating affairs on an annual basis – with Willie Mullins tending to wait a couple of weeks longer before unleashing his big guns.

Abacadabras is set to go off at a short price in the WKD Hurdle, having just been touched off by Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin at Cheltenham in March in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“He’s a nice horse who hasn’t done much wrong in his career,” said Elliott.

“He was probably unlucky in the Supreme. Nicky’s horse was very good, but we probably ended up getting there (the front) too soon.

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“I think our horse has improved. He’s not a horse that you’d work that much, because he’s hard enough on himself on the gallop.

“It will be a good race in Down Royal. We’re going to have to improve, and if we improve we’ve got a good chance.”

Gordon Elliott (centre) took plenty of pleasure in Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore
Gordon Elliott (middle) took plenty of pleasure in Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Henry de Bromhead pair of Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant are expected to give him most to do.

Just over an hour later Elliott will give Jack Kennedy the leg up on Envoi Allen for his debut over fences under rules in the Advance NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase.

Unbeaten in eight career starts, Envoi Allen is already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner – but this will be the first time Kennedy has ridden him in a race, with Davy Russell sidelined by injury.

“He’s just a very laid-back horse who I’m lucky to have,” said Elliott.

“If you watched him in Cheltenham last season, for two or three strides after the back of the last I thought ‘we’re in trouble here’, but he just picks up and is always there when you want him.

“He’s schooled well. The ground has been good enough, so we haven’t done an awful lot of schooling with him, but he came from Colin Bowe’s and will have done an awful lot of schooling as a young horse – it’s just a case of getting his eye back in and refreshing him.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and Cheltenham next March, and he probably is going to get beat some day – hopefully not.”

In the Grade Three Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle, Champion Bumper third Queens Brook bids to add to a Fairyhouse success on her hurdling debut – when she had to work harder than expected.

“She got tired in Fairyhouse – but as we said before the race, she was only three-quarters fit, if even that,” said Elliott

“I think two and a half miles will suit her better in time, and even a bit softer ground, but this race is there for her to run in.”

Lorna Fowler’s Politesse, De Bromhead’s Brave Way and John McConnell’s Anna Bunina will give her something to think about.