Bob Olinger misses Punchestown outing

Bob Olinger is a late absentee from Friday’s Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s hugely impressive Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner was found to be coughing on the morning of the race.

Having claimed a clean sweep of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham, De Bromhead has yet to fire at Punchestown – and Gold Cup hero Minella Indo was also a late absentee with a stone bruise.

De Bromhead had earlier taken out Decimation, who only ran two days ago.

In their absence only four remain, with three trained by Willie Mullins.

Jessica Harrington’s saddles Ashdale Bob, who was a narrow Grade Two winner at Fairyhouse this month.

“He’s probably up against it, but he hasn’t gone to Cheltenham and he’s won two Grade Twos, so he’s entitled to take his chance,” she said.

“It was great to see him win at Fairyhouse.”

Mullins’ runners are headed by Gaillard Du Mesnil, who was second to Bob Olinger at Cheltenham, with Ganapathi and N’golo completing the field.

Mullins said on his website: “Gaillard Du Mesnil came out of the Cheltenham race well. Realistically our other two runners are running for place money.

“Ganapathi found the trip too sharp in the County Hurdle, but that experience will help him here.

“N’golo ran too free in the Albert Bartlett but a change of tactics here might enable him to get a good share of the prize money.”

Comeback kid Tiger rolls back years at age of 11

The Wednesday of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival was the scene of an emphatic comeback as Tiger Roll stormed to victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.

The 11-year-old dual Grand National hero has been out of sorts since finishing second in the race last term, but announced himself right back to his best with an 18-length dismissal of his old foe Easysland.

The complexion of the feature Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase had altered minutes before it began when title-holder Politologue was a late withdrawal – and Henry de Bromhead’s Put The Kettle On went on to reverse this season’s form with Chacun Pour Soi and prevail by half a length.

Monkfish was regarded as unbeatable in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, but perhaps showed himself a little more fallible than previously thought as he put in a slightly patchy round of jumping before triumphing nonetheless by six and a half lengths – a more modest margin than many expected for the 1-4 favourite.

Heaven Help Us, based at the stable of greyhound trainer Paul Hennessy, was a 33-1 winner of the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, while the concluding Weatherbys Champion Bumper was taken by the undefeated Sir Gerhard – making it a Grade One double for Rachael Blackmore after the earlier success of Bob Olinger.

Picture of the day

Rachael Blackmore celebrates victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper aboard Sir Gerhard
Rachael Blackmore celebrates victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper aboard Sir Gerhard (Michael Steele/PA)

Quote of the day

“If I could bottle what she has I wouldn’t have to ride again, I’d sell it and be a rich man” – Aidan Coleman on Put The Kettle On after their victory in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Performance of the day

Tiger Roll and jockey Keith Donoghue clear a fence on the way to winning the Glenfarclas Chase
Tiger Roll and jockey Keith Donoghue clear a fence on the way to winning the Glenfarclas Chase (David Davies/PA)

Tiger Roll looked totally revitalised as he revisited some of his best form with an easy victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, becoming the only horse to take the race three times in the process. Sent to the front of the field from the beginning, he handled the loops of the cross-country track like the seasoned veteran he is and was left completely unchallenged as he turned the final bend and cruised up the hill. Unbelievably, that is now five Festival wins for the great horse.

Ride of the day

Nick Scholfield riding Sky Pirate (yellow) clears the last to win The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Nick Scholfield and Sky Pirate (yellow) clear the last to win the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nick Scholfield, recently recovered from a complex leg break, picked a perfect path aboard Sky Pirate through a packed field in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. Travelling sweetly before meeting the final bend, the eight-year-old was sent to lead after the last fence and had enough in reserve to battle up the hill and hold off the challenging Entoucas.

What’s next?

Paisley Park ahead of the 2020 Stayers' Hurdle
Paisley Park will be back to try to reclaim his Stayers’ Hurdle title (David Davies/PA)

The Thursday of the Festival is when the stamina stars come to the fore in the three-mile Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Paisley Park would be a fairytale winner if he were to recreate the performance that won him the race in 2019, but Denise Foster’s Sire Du Berlais poses a threat alongside 2020 champion Lisnagar Oscar. Elsewhere, the unbeaten Envoi Allen is the headline act of the Marsh Novices’ Chase – with the Ryanair Chase also promising a real contest as the Willie Mullins trio of Min, Melon and Allaho do battle.

Bookies claim score draw at half-time in Festival

Honours between backers and bookmakers remain level-pegging at the halfway point of the Cheltenham Festival.

After Appreciate It and Shishkin on day one, it was another dream start for punters with Bob Olinger (6-4) and Monkfish (1-4) rewarding favourite-backers, although the latter not totally in the manner expected, in what was a messy race.

Betfair went 9-2 about next year’s Gold Cup for Monkfish, with Coral a slightly more conservative 6-1.

All smiles for Rachael Blackmore, and the punters, after favourite Bob Olinger took the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
All smiles for Rachael Blackmore, and the punters, after favourite Bob Olinger took the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA)

In a mirror image of Tuesday, race three threw up a big-priced winner – this time Heaven Help Us at 33-1 in the Coral Cup – but in a twist from the opening afternoon, the feature Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was also a great result for the layers.

Chacun Pour Soi had been all the rage as the 8-13 market leader, but he did not get up the hill as last year’s Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On (17-2) continued Henry de Bromhead’s spectacular week.

In contrast to previous years Tiger Roll (9-2) had bookmakers smiling in winning the cross-country chase, at the expense of Easysland, while 14-1 shot Sky Pirate was another good result for the layers in the Grand Annual.

The card finished with the Champion Bumper – and although it was a Willie Mullins-trained one-two, Sir Gerhard at 85-40 got the better of the odds-on Kilcruit.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “It felt like Groundhog Day when well-backed favourites Bob Olinger and Monkfish replicated what Appreciate It and Shishkin had done on Tuesday – and then as in the Ultima on day one, we got a great result in the Coral Cup.

“But then unlike Tuesday, the hot favourite for the day’s feature race, Chacun Pour Soi, could not do what Honeysuckle had done – and after Put The Kettle On’s Champion Champion Chase victory had dented plenty of multiples, even the Tiger rolling back the years in the cross-country was not too painful, and our fightback was completed when Sky Pirate landed the Grand Annual.”

Chad Yeaomans, for Betway, said: “Although the first two races for novices were very punter friendly, the handicaps were kind to us – and we end the day in front.

“The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was a thriller of a contest that was full of drama, and the favourite getting beaten was a good result across the board. Chacun Pour Soi would have been the biggest single loser of the day, especially because we’d ‘superboosted’ him to 6-4 this morning, so getting him beaten was imperative.

“Sir Gerhard has been well-backed all winter, so he gave punters something to smile about when winning the bumper. I get the feeling he could be there in 12 months’ time after winning the Supreme!”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “For the second day running, a couple of short ones had us fearing the worst, but fortunately for the bookies Put The Kettle On emulated Black Tears yesterday by chinning a hotpot and averting any potential multiple mayhem.

“Chacun Pour Soi, as well as Kilcruit in the bumper getting beat, meant a fair day for us – and the layers are ahead. But in Euro 2021 year, it’s only half-time, and it’s a game of two halves.”

Envoi Allen will be a key player on Thursday for one Betfair customer
Envoi Allen will be a key player on Thursday for one Betfair customer (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Ladbrokes’ Jon Lees said: “It’s very much racing’s loss that Tiger Roll won’t be trying to land a third Grand National at Aintree this year, after he routed his rivals to win at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time. Who knows? Maybe next year.

“For once Tiger Roll was on the bookmakers’ side in dismissing the hot favourite Easysland in the cross-country. With Chacun Pour Soi and Kilcruit beaten at odds-on as well, we emerged from St Patrick’s Day narrowly in front, which was looking unlikely when Bob Olinger and Monkfish took the first two races.”

Looking to the third day, one Betfair punter stands to win £511,225 for a £5 accumulator bet should his last selection and hot favourite, Envoi Allen, win the opening Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “The customer is sitting on over half-a-million pound payout for just a £5 bet and told me he won’t be able to sleep tonight. I’d say that’s a massive understatement.

“He could take the cash out offer of £275,000 and sit back safe in the knowledge that regardless of what happens in the race he is £275,000 better off, or he can reject the offer and hope that Envoi Allen beats his seven opponents and also safely negotiates the 16 fences to land his incredible bet.

“Envoi Allen is 4-9 favourite, so he may well stick and let the bet run.”

Bob Olinger and Blackmore turn Ballymore into a procession

Rachael Blackmore’s dream Cheltenham Festival continued into the second day as Bob Olinger sprouted wings in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

With the Champion Hurdle already in the bag through Honeysuckle and a top-class book of rides to come through the rest of the week, Blackmore is proving unstoppable.

Harry Cobden tried to dominate from the front at a steady tempo on Bravemansgame and in the early stages the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger (6-4 favourite) was keen enough, pulling himself into second position.

As they went down the back straight Bear Ghylls attempted to inject some pace to the race and put pressure on the leader, as Blackmore sat in wait.

Paul Townend was scraping the paint on Gaillard Du Mesnil and did get a little short of room at the second-last, as Blackmore forced her way between Bravemansgame and Bear Ghylls.

But turning in there was only going to be one winner and it was a matter of ‘how far?’. The answer was seven and a half lengths back to Gaillard Du Mesnil.

De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with him. Rachael was brilliant on him again and he couldn’t have done it any better.

“He’s a horse we’ve always liked. He’s done very little wrong and he’s very exciting.

“I started the season aiming at the Supreme, but everyone persuaded me, quite rightly, to step up in trip.

“We were very hopeful coming here, but it was obviously a very good race and you never know on the day.”

On future plans, he added: “We’ll get through his novice season and see.

“He’s built like a chaser and jumps like one, so we’d normally look at going that way, but we’ll speak to Brian (Acheson, owner) and Robcour and see what everyone would like to do. We’ll enjoy today.”

Rachael Blackmore with Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore with Honeysuckle (Michael Steele/PA)

De Bromhead also reported Honeysuckle in good shape following her brilliant performance.

He said: “She was great and was really good this morning. We’re delighted with her – she’s full of herself.

“I’d imagine we’ll probably look towards Punchestown, but we haven’t decided yet.”

Blackmore said: “That was fantastic. I’m so delighted for Brian Acheson and his family. They put a lot of into the game and to get a win like that today is phenomenal – they’ve got a very special horse on their hands.

“I didn’t get as smooth a run as I thought I would in such a small field. He was a little bit keen passing the stands the first time, but the manner in which he’s done it, he’s a massive future ahead of him.

“He stays and has a helluva a lot of speed as well.

“A lot of people have thought an awful lot of this horse, so it’s great he could go and do that today and really show what he’s made of.”

Reflecting on Honeysuckle, she said: “I’m still speechless after yesterday. It was a massive day and I’m still pinching myself.

“I don’t think I’ll get to reflect on it until the week is done maybe.

“We’re steamrolling on to today and we’ll reflect at some stage.”

Bob Olinger refreshed ahead of Ballymore bid for De Bromhead

Bob Olinger heads for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle a fresh horse having being saved for Cheltenham since winning at Naas in January.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead did not see the need to go to Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival in February, after the six-year-old won the Grade One Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle.

“He seems great and we’re delighted with him, and hopefully Cheltenham will suit,” said the County Waterford-based handler.

“He’s had three runs and he won his Grade One at Naas – the Lawlor’s is a really good race – so I didn’t feel any need to go to the Dublin Festival with him.

“He’s a good moving horse and works well on good-ish ground, so hopefully he should be fine.”

Gaillard Du Mesnil confirmed his place in the field when capturing the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy And Partners Novice Hurdle over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown last month.

Trainer Willie Mullins believes this slightly shorter trip will suit the five-year-old.

“He hasn’t done much wrong. We ran over two-six last time because we didn’t want to go back to two miles with him,” he said.

Gaillard Du Mesnil opening his Grade One account at Leopardstown
Gaillard Du Mesnil opening his Grade One account at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

“I prefer this distance, and I think the pace there will suit us. He’s a horse that I like a lot and I think he’s improving all the time.

“Danny (Mullins) was very good on Stattler (in the race at Leopardstown). He got the fractions right and nearly stole the race himself, but when push came to shove, Gaillard Du Mesnil showed what he’s made of and hopefully he’ll be able to do that at Cheltenham, too.”

Paul Nicholls believes Bravemansgame has a big chance and would not swap the Challow Hurdle winner for anything else in the race.

“He’s a very relaxed horse and not keen. He’s a good ride and a class horse,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“The Ballymore is a hard race to win. Denman got beat in the race and there are some good horses in it.

“He’s definitely improving physically all the time and the best will come from him when he jumps a fence in the future, but I think he’s going into the race with a leading chance. He’s a lovely horse for the future.”

Joseph O’Brien is happy with the improvement shown by Keskonrisk in just two races over hurdles.

“Keskonrisk has pleased us with his progression so far this season,” O’Brien told Betfair.

Joseph O'Brien feels Keskonrisk (right) is improving all the time
Joseph O’Brien feels Keskonrisk (right) is improving all the time (Niall Carson/PA)

“He got himself out of trouble to make a winning hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in November and we threw him into the deep end in Grade One novice hurdle company at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting after that.

“Considering how much of a step up in class that was for him, we were very happy with his effort in finishing third to Appreciate It. We had a good think about which race to send him to at this meeting and we opted to go up in trip for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

“He isn’t a flashy work horse at home, so it’s hard to know where the ceiling of his improvement will be, but there should be more to come from him. This looks a very good renewal of this race, but hopefully he will be up to competing.”

Nicky Martin’s Bear Ghylls is unbeaten in three races over jumps and takes a big step up from maiden, novice and handicap company to the top level.

The Kim Bailey-trained Does He Know and Ben Pauling’s Optimise Prime complete the seven runners.

Olinger likely to bypass Dublin date

Bob Olinger is set to bypass next month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Henry de Bromhead’s latest Grade One winner is entered in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle over two miles.

However, given his victory in last week’s Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle was his third outing of the season, De Bromhead senses the six-year-old has perhaps already done enough before the spring.

Bob Olinger is joint-favourite with some bookmakers for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

“We were over the moon – I was delighted with him and he seems really good since,” De Bromhead told Racing TV.

“I would imagine we’ll skip Dublin. He’s entered in the two-miler, but I would imagine we’ll skip the Dublin Racing Festival.

“He’s been busy enough now, so we’ll back off him and aim him towards the spring.”

Bob Olinger bags Grade One glory at Naas

Bob Olinger continued his progression with an emphatic victory in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.

The point-to-point and bumper winner made a highly promising start to his hurdling career when runner-up to last season’s Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow at Gowran Park in November, before landing cramped odds at Navan last month.

Stepping up to the highest level for a Grade One contest rescheduled following the abandonment of racing last Sunday, Bob Olinger was the 6-4 favourite in the hands of Rachael Blackmore, and ultimately won with plenty in hand.

Gabyanko cut out the running for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, with the keen-going Blue Lord his nearest pursuer, ahead of Bob Olinger in third.

Blue Lord looked to be travelling best early in the home straight, but had no answer when Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger found another gear between the final two flights and he ended up pulling six and a half lengths clear at the line.

Coral were suitably impressed, making the winner their 4-1 favourite (from 8-1) for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Blackmore said: “He’s always shown us a lot at home and I think today was the stamp of the kind of horse he is for the future. I’m delighted with him.

“I wanted to ride a straightforward enough race on him. He’s a simple horse to ride in that sense and I was happy most of the way.

“He jumped better today in the latter half of the race. The jump is there if you really ask him.

“He quickened up well and he seems to tick a lot of boxes.”

The leading rider believes Bob Olinger could be an even better horse once he has his attentions switched to the larger obstacles, adding: “I don’t think he’s a real, sharp Champion Hurdle horse in the making. Two and a half (miles) is ideal, but I wouldn’t rule out two either.

“For the future he’s probably going to be one for longer trips. He’s won a point-to-point and looks one for fences in the future.

“I’m delighted for Brian Acheson and Robcour (owners) who are very supportive of the game and to get a Grade One winner is brilliant.”