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Russell mulling Punchestown option for Aintree hero Ahoy Senor

Ahoy Senor may be heading to the Punchestown Festival this month as Lucinda Russell ponders one more outing over hurdles for her impressive Aintree winner.

Russell has made no secret of the intention that British point-to-point graduate Ahoy Senor’s future will lie over fences as of the start of next season.

But after the six-year-old’s shock yet decisive success from a field of top staying novices in Grade One company at Aintree last week, his Scottish trainer will consider heading to Punchestown for the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle on April 28.

Ahoy Senor was among a clutch of British entries published on Monday for the five-day meeting, which will feature many of the stars of this spring’s major Festivals in a finale to the National Hunt season.

“It won’t do him any harm to get a bit more experience,” said Russell.

“But he really is a (future) chaser, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

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A decision over whether to travel has therefore yet to be made.

Russell added: “It’s 50-50 really. We’ve just got him back into work and we’ll find out how he is.

“I’d prefer it to be ground on the soft side. So no firm decision has been made (yet) – we’ll see how we get on over the next week.

“Maybe it’s being a bit greedy – but then again, if he is in good form, he is a racehorse and that’s what he’s been bought to do.”

So far, three days after the lightly-raced Ahoy Senor’s seven-length win from Bravemansgame, he appears to have recovered well from what was his third run of the campaign – and just the second hurdles start of his career.

Russell said: “He’s fine. He’s a remarkable horse really – very inexperienced race-wise, but just a very straightforward horse to deal with.

“We knew he was a very good horse. We only bought him in the autumn, and he missed out on the early-season novices.

“He’s been very well-prepared, and had a full season in training before he ran in his point-to-point – so we always knew physically he was going to cope with it.

“It was just whether he would mentally – but he is just very straightforward.”

Elsewhere among the Punchestown entries, Henry de Bromhead’s champions Minella Indo, Put The Kettle On and Honeysuckle are all in the reckoning – and Monkfish and Envoi Allen are on course to clash too in a test of their superstar potential.

Gold Cup hero Minella Indo is one of 11 currently in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup – along with Willie Mullins’ Al Boum Photo, dual winner of Cheltenham’s signature event, and his stablemate Kemboy, successful in the most recent edition of this race in 2019.

Gold Cup winner Minella Indo may be in action again at Punchestown
Gold Cup winner Minella Indo may be in action again at Punchestown (David Davies/Jockey Club)

The opposition for Queen Mother Champion Chase heroine Put The Kettle On, in the William Hill Champion Chase, includes Dan and Harry Skelton’s Nube Negra – who got closest to the mare in second at Cheltenham – and Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi. The latter’s stablemate and Ryanair Chase winner Allaho and Joseph O’Brien’s Aintree Grade One star Fakir D’oudairies also hold alternative Gold Cup entries.

On the same card, which opens the meeting, dual Cheltenham Festival winners Monkfish – unbeaten over fences for Mullins – and De Bromhead’s Envoi Allen, who lost his perfect record when falling in the Marsh Novices’ Chase last month, are among 12 in the Dooley Insurance Champion Novice over an extended three miles.

Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter, winner of Cheltenham’s Stayers’ Hurdle, tops 25 possibles in Punchestown’s Grade One equivalent – and Envoi Allen has the option of dropping back to two miles, with both Mullins’ Energumene and Nicky Henderson’s Arkle and Aintree hero Shishkin among the potential opposition in the Ryanair Novice Chase.

The Paddy Power Champion Hurdle could feature a rematch between Honeysuckle and Henderson’s 2020 Cheltenham winner Epatante – who was third this year – with her stablemate Buveur D’Air and Gary Moore’s Goshen also potential British challengers.

Ahoy Senor springs 66-1 surprise in Sefton Novices’ Hurdle

The Grand National-winning team of Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox teamed up at Aintree once more to win the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle with Ahoy Senor at 66-1.

Having just his second start over hurdles, having won at Ayr last month, Ahoy Senor made every yard of the running.

As his challengers dropped away one by one in the straight there was only the favourite, Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, who brought the strongest form to the table, able to get close before the final flight.

Ahoy Senor was not for stopping, though, and the lightly-raced six-year-old went away again on the run-in to score by seven lengths and his future looks very bright.

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Fox, who won the 2017 National with the Russell-trained One For Arthur, said: “It’s unbelievable as he’s only had the one run over hurdles before.

“He works so well at home and everyone thinks a lot of him. I’m delighted.

“He’s a very talented horse. He does everything with so much ease and he’s a pleasure to ride – I’m very lucky to be on him.

“This is my first winner back here since the Grand National on One For Arthur (in 2017). It was brilliant.

“He’s a big horse and you wouldn’t to risk him on ground that was too fast. He does go on good ground. We just want it to be safe enough for him because he’s so big and you don’t want to risk injuring him. That’s why we took him out at Hexham.”

Russell said: “He’s just a super horse who gallops and jumps. I saw him win his point-to-point and he did the same thing there.

“It was only his second hurdle race today, but there was such confidence behind him at home. I just saw he was 66-1.

“I can’t believe we managed to get him beaten in a bumper, but jumping has taken him to another level and I can’t wait for him to go chasing.

Ahoy Senor looks to have a huge future
Ahoy Senor looks to have a huge future (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“We bought him for £50,000, which is a lot of money, but not for a winning a point-to-pointer.”

She added: “It’s great for Derek to ride another big winner and great for the whole yard at home.

“He’s half-owned by my dad, who is 93. He’s found it hard through lockdown, like many people have. The racing has really kept him going, so it’s nice for him to watch it today.

“He is physically a bigger horse than Brindisi Breeze. He has already schooled over fences and jumps well, so I would hope next year is going to be really exciting.”