Tag Archive for: Bryan Cooper

Melon claims Grade Three honours at Cork

Melon made the most of having his sights lowered when notching his second success of the season in the Baroneracing.com Chase at Cork.

Runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival on four occasions, the Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old bagged a long overdue victory in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February – his first in over two years and only his second over fences.

He failed to land a telling blow on his return to the Cotswolds for last month’s Ryanair Chase – but dropping back down in class, Melon was the evens favourite to claim Grade Three honours.

Sent straight to the lead by Bryan Cooper, the chestnut jumped well in the main and had several of his rivals in trouble from the home turn.

With last year’s Grand National hero Minella Times weakening out of contention, Doctor Duffy came through to fill the runner-up spot, finishing eight lengths behind the decisive winner.

Cooper said: “It is great for the horse and great to get a winner in these colours. He got into a rhythm and really enjoyed it and this track seemed to suit him as there is a lot of jumping. He jumped fantastic and I was able to boss the race.

“He accelerated, I was always confident and it was a great bit of placing by Willie. These races take winning and he has won two races this year off his rating and it is now easy to place him.

“I enjoyed it to be honest and it is great to win on him.”

Bois De Clamart sluiced to victory in the €45,000 Baroneracing.com Easter Handicap Hurdle.

An emphatic winner over fences at Gowran Park on his last start, Liz Doyle’s charge was switched back to the smaller obstacles in a bid to make the most of his 13lb lower mark over hurdles.

Given a confident ride by Richie Deegan, Bois De Clamart did just that as he powered clear of eventual runner-up Happy Jacky by five and a half lengths.

Doyle said: “I had thought about running him in a handicap chase at Punchestown but I don’t know if he jumps well enough on good ground, so I have been following the weather, with hurdles and chases.

“I told Richie ‘do not come off the left-hand rail’ and he was excellent. It saved four or five lengths and you really have to go wide at Cork when it gets chewed.

“There is no point in saying ‘I hope the handicapper won’t be too hard on us’ but if we were going to lose our novice hurdle status, we might as well do it today with this pot. He was won three €40,000 races for us this year and has been a great horse.

“He doesn’t get too high over his fences, but he might jump well around a Topham (Chase at Aintree), where they only have to flick through them a bit and don’t have to get too high.

“He has great owners – one is in America, one is a Yorkshireman and I’m really pleased for them.”

Rachael Blackmore steered Irascible to victory
Rachael Blackmore steered Irascible to victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

Irascible lunged late to land the Baroneracing.com Hurdle.

Cash Back set out to make all the running under 7lb claimer Kieran Callaghan and his stablemate and 6-4 favourite Ganapathi was unable to reel him in.

However, Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead’s 4-1 shot Irascible joined the leader at the final flight and finished best to prevail by a neck.

“He is quite a lazy horse but has some lovely form and it is great to see him get his head in front. I think when he sees a fence he will improve again,” said Blackmore.

Blackmore teamed up with Mullins in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase, with Aione all the rage as the 8-13 favourite.

Odds-on backers were left counting their losses, though, with 15-8 shot Grand Paradis winning the day for Gordon Elliott and Jordan Gainford.

“Everything happened a bit quick for him at Cheltenham (pulled up in Plate), but he had been banging on the door previously and was caught by some nice horses,” said Gainford.

“It was my first time riding him today and it was nice to get his head in front.”

Prairie Dancer stamped his class on the Dermot Casey Tree Care Maiden Hurdle.

Eighth in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, Joseph O’Brien’s 4-11 favourite made the most of the drop in class as he registered a comfortable victory under JJ Slevin.

O’Brien’s assistant, Brendan Powell, said: “He deserved to win on ratings and ran well at Cheltenham. He quickened up well and did it nicely and had to in that company.

“Looking in the paddock, there were a lot of ‘future horses’, but he had the experience off the Flat and it was a nice race to find. He’ll probably mix it during the summer.”

Dunvegan claims Moore glory at Fairyhouse

Dunvegan made it four from four at Fairyhouse in the Dan And Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase.

Pat Fahy’s grey won a bumper and a maiden hurdle at the County Meath track four years ago – and completed the set with a handicap chase victory at the end of November.

The nine-year-old was the 7-2 joint-favourite to maintain his unbeaten course record in this €80,000 feature under Bryan Cooper and ultimately got the job done in fine style.

After tracking his pacesetting market rival Blackbow for much of the two-mile-one-furlong contest, Dunvegan hit the front in the home straight.

Blackbow briefly threatened to rally, but Fahy’s charge was winning the argument on the approach to the final fence and jumped it well to seal a three-and-a-quarter-length verdict.

“When I saw him jumping the second-last, I started to enjoy it,” said Fahy.

“It was straightforward, before Christmas he was bouncing but then he just went a little bit short. We worked on him and he showed today that he wasn’t feeling anything.

“Bryan gave the horse a brilliant ride and we always thought a lot of him. He won two bumpers and beat a lot of winners in Punchestown, then he was so impressive when he won his maiden hurdle here.

“He kind of went backwards on us and looked like a three-mile chaser, but this seems to be his trip.”

On future plans, the trainer added: “We have him in the Queen Mother. I know you are really jumping up in class but he’s done us no harm so we’ll see.

“There is also the Dublin Racing Festival. We’ll move on with him now and give him the chance to compete against the big ones over the shorter trips.

“He hasn’t been beaten here as he won his bumper, hurdles and now two chases. He obviously loves it and it’s a pity we can’t win the Irish National with him now!”

Fahy was also delighted with the performance of Castlegrace Paddy, who was best of the rest in third.

Castlegrace Paddy ran well in defeat
Castlegrace Paddy ran well in defeat (PA)

The 11-year-old had been off the track since suffering a broken blood vessel and pulling up at Gowran Park in early October.

“I was absolutely thrilled with Castlegrace Paddy. Davy (Russell) was delighted with him, he ran some race because that would be his first proper gallop,” said Fahy.

“It was a beautiful run and I couldn’t be happier.”

Bryan Cooper pays tribute after tragic loss of Latest Exhibition

Bryan Cooper has issued a heartfelt tribute to Latest Exhibition in the wake of the fatal injury suffered by Paul Nolan’s stable star at Fairyhouse last weekend.

Cooper partnered the eight-year-old on nine of his 13 career starts, including a Grade One victory at last year’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Latest Exhibition went on to be beaten a neck by Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and was runner-up to the same horse in two Grade One novice chases last term.

Latest Exhibition (left) in action against Monkfish at Leopardstown
Latest Exhibition (left) in action against Monkfish at Leopardstown (PA)

Nolan’s charge reverted to the smaller obstacles for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, but it proved to be his final outing.

Cooper said: “Latest Exhibition came along at a very important time in my career. He really helped me to get back on the big stage.

“It was sickening what happened to him and we’ll miss him. They’re horses of a lifetime and you don’t come across them every week.”

Cooper has been in demand from a number of Ireland’s leading stables this season, riding regularly for Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade and Willie Mullins among others.

This weekend the jockey will be on board the Mullins-trained Asterion Forlonge in Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, a horse he steered to an impressive course and distance victory in April.

“Asterion Forlonge is a high-class horse who’s held in high regard in Closutton,” Cooper added.

“He didn’t have the rub of the green earlier on in the season last year, but things finished off on a high note and he couldn’t have been any more impressive.

Asterion Forlonge and Bryan Cooper in winning action at Punchestown
Asterion Forlonge and Bryan Cooper in winning action at Punchestown (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s back into Grade One company now and I’m looking forward to him – he’s an exciting ride.

“I’m trying to keep everybody happy and so grateful to be getting opportunities from everyone – from Gordon, Willie, the Nolans, Noel Meade, everyone. It’s a great position to be in.

“It’s great to be getting the opportunities but you have to be seen to be making the most of them as well, so you just keep working hard but it would be very special to win on John Durkan day at Punchestown, better again if we could win the big one.”

Grangee headlines Fairyhouse treble for Bryan Cooper

Grangee was the highlight of a treble for Bryan Cooper as he took the riding honours at Fairyhouse.

The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival is Grangee’s long-term objective after the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old completed Cooper’s trio when making a winning debut in the second division of the St. Peter’s Dunboyne GAA Maiden Hurdle.

The 2-7 favourite travelled smoothly throughout before pulling clear in the straight to score by five and a half lengths from Roaring Potter.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to the father, said: “Bryan was very happy. It was very straight forward, she jumped fantastic. She’s not the biggest but she has a good technique. She loved the ground.

“It’s the first time the owners have got to see her, so they are delighted.

“It’s planning back from the Mares’ Novice (at Cheltenham) I suppose. I don’t know where she will go next but it’s great to get her started like that.”

Grangee was cut to 9-1 from 14-1 for the Festival contest with Paddy Power.

The Nice Guy (9-4) made a winning debut for the Mullins team in the Willie Elliott Memorial (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

Lieutenant Command after winning at Fairyhouse
Lieutenant Command after winning at Fairyhouse (Alan Magee/PA)

Noel Meade is looking forward to seeing Lieutenant Command step up in grade following a front-running victory under Cooper in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners Chase.

A talented bumper horse before losing his way over hurdles, the switch to fences appears to have reinvigorated the seven-year-old judged on this near two-length success.

Meade said: “He was brilliant when we schooled him. Pat Doyle had him as a point-to-pointer.

“We always thought a lot of him when he ran in bumpers and we were really looking forward to him last year. He won and then he got worse and worse and I don’t know why.

“He’s in the three-mile novice at Leopardstown over Christmas and the race in Limerick, so we’ll see what happens.

“He handled the ground but I would think he’d like it easier.”

Cooper led all the way on Dunvegan (3-1), who held the late challenge of Grange Walk to take the EasyFix Equine Handicap Chase.

Pat Fahy’s eight-year-old would not be denied and kept up the gallop to score by a length.

Fahy said: “When we’d run him on quickish ground on the Flat he wouldn’t even have a sore shin, so we said we’d chance him on it. He’s a big horse but he just loves it.

“His jumping was super today. We won’t go on heavy but he can go on soft.

“He’s in the Paddy Power Chase but I’d rather see him over a short trip and going out like that again. He could come back here over a similar trip.”

Gringo D’Aubrelle got off the mark over the smaller obstacles in game fashion in the first division of the St. Peter’s Dunboyne GAA Maiden Hurdle.

Benefiting from the experience of finishing second at Galway on his hurdling debut followed by victory in a Navan bumper, Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old got the better of his main market rival Adamantly Chosen in a stirring duel to the line.

There was little between them at the final flight but Gringo D’Aubrelle (evens favourite) stuck on the stronger to beat 11-8 chance Adamantly Chosen by three-quarters of a length.

The winner’s stablemate, Ash Tree Meadow, was four and a quarter lengths away in third place.

“He’s a nice horse but probably wants two and a half miles. I loved the way he put his head out,” said Elliott.

“Davy (Russell) said when he was on his own he was very idle. He galloped all the way up the straight. The second horse is a nice horse and we had the experience of a run over hurdles and race fitness on our side.

“We’ll look at something over Christmas or at Naas (in the new year). I’ll have a word with Noel (Moran, owner) and see what we do. The further he goes, the better he’ll be.”

Elliott completed a double with Chemical Energy (7-4 favourite), who outpointed Lunar Display on the run-in to land the Christmas Party Race Day December 11th Rated Novice Hurdle under 5lb claimer Shane FitzGerald.

Joanna Walton steered the Dermot McLoughlin-trained Lord Lariat (9-2) to a half-length victory over Favori Logique in the Fairyhouse Ladies Handicap Chase.

“His run here two runs back was good and he stayed at it well today,” said McLoughlin.

“Joanna won this race two years ago and she used her head. I was lucky enough to get her during the week.

“He seems to like that ground. I’d say he’d be happier going left-handed and we’ll see if there is something for him at Leopardstown over Christmas.”

Broomfields Jeremy (13-2) gamely held Carrarea by a head to take the Wear Your Christmas Jumper To Fairyhouse Handicap Hurdle for trainer Philip Dempsey and his jockey son Luke.

“He battled well and I’m delighted with him. He was always a horse you were hoping was going to do something like that,” said the trainer.

“Clonmel the last day was a bit of a mess and two lightweights got away. He jumped much better out of that ground today and Luke gave him a great ride.

“He had a hard enough race today and we’ll see how he comes out of it. We’ll probably find something for him around Christmas.”

Mount Ida scales seemingly impossible heights at Cheltenham

Mount Ida put up an amazing performance to come from last to first and claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Leading two out in the hands of Jack Kennedy, the 3-1 favourite gradually went clear to give Denise Foster a second Festival winner after taking over the licence at Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables.

Touching 999-1 in-running on the exchanges, Mount Ida was almost detached from the rest of the field in the early stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, but she got going on the final circuit.

She made stealthy progress and was cantering turning for home. Kennedy made sure she finished off the job and his mount did it in style to win by six and a half lengths from Cloudy Glen. Shantou Flyer was three-quarters of a length away in third. Hold The Note was a further 13 lengths back in fourth.

Rachael Blackmore came down on Plan Of Attack at the third-last fence when holding every chance.

Kennedy – who suffered heartbreak in the opening race of the day when Envoi Allen fell – said: “I was lucky they were going quick, she was doing her best work at the finish.

“We thought she’d stay, but I’d planned it going a bit smoother in the early part. I just had to make do what I could from there, luckily I had a very willing partner.

“We were hoping she’d run a big race, we thought she might be thereabouts if things went smoothly, but I thought my chances were out of the window after four fences.

“At the top of the hill I was fairly happy and I ended up getting there too soon.

“It was a massive thrill, especially after the day I’d had, probably one of the most satisfactory winners I’ve had.”

The Shunter won a £100,000 bonus for his connections when beating 20 rivals in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase.

The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old scooped the windfall with a convincing display in the competitive two-and-a-half-mile affair.

Mullins selected this race from five engagements for The Shunter, who qualified for a crack at the money after landing the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.

The County Carlow handler put faith in 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to do the steering and he showed no pressure as he guided the well-backed 9-4 favourite to victory.

Gainford had The Shunter with the leaders throughout before he went for glory at the second-last fence. He kept on strongly up the hill to win by three lengths from Farclas. Top Notch was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Coole Cody a head away in fourth.

Gainford said: “It’s unbelievable, something you can’t describe and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before.

“Emmet said to jump off smart and if they weren’t going hard enough to be positive but we shouldn’t have that problem.

“He thought the step up in trip would suit. He tends to do his own little thing so going to the last I let him pop then he battled hard from the last.

“I spoke to Davy Russell through the week and he filled me with confidence and I must thank Barry O’Neill (champion amateur jockey) and Colin Bowe (leading point-to-point trainer).

“I didn’t know I’d got the ride until declaration time so I owe my agent Gary Cribbin a lot. I’m 20 and ride for Colin three days a week and at Cullentra House three times a week.”

Mullins said: “It is probably no great reflection on me, but at the time I thought he had to go for a beginners’ chase at Punchestown in September. To go from there, via the Greatwood and Kelso, it’s been an unbelievable journey.

“We booked Jordan because he’s catching everyone’s attention, the owner was fairly insistent on claiming 7lb and at that Jordan was the only option. He showed why today.

“We went to Kelso as I thought it would be easier on the horse than the County Hurdle here, and Kelso was a huge pot in its own right.

“We got that one right and it’s just fallen into place since. You wouldn’t know how far he could go, what we see on the track is as wise as I can be, he doesn’t set the world alight at home but we don’t ask him to do much, the less the better.

“I wouldn’t know what’s next, we haven’t thought beyond this, but I’m sure his owner will pull another rabbit out of the hat.”

Mrs Milner was another for Ireland in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in comfortable fashion.

Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight.

Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar.

Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth.

Nolan said: “That was brilliant – I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it.

“She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you!

“It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.”

He went on: “She is such a tough little mare. After the fall she had in Leopardstown the last day, a lot of horses would have their head down for a week, but she just bounced straight back.

“We ran her over the wrong trip the last day, but we decided to go that way to keep her against the mares. As it’s turned out it’s probably worked out well as she might have ended up with a few more pounds on her back if she’d run in the longer race and run well.”

Nolan, saddling his first Festival winner since Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2011, decided against crossing the Irish Sea this year with his solitary runner.

He added: “It’s disappointing not to be there, but it sounds like you can’t do much anyway and we’ll enjoy it the best we can from home.

“We were jumping up and down here watching the race and nearly went through the skylight!

“We’ve had a few placed horses and things since Noble Prince won. We’re lucky to have some very good owners, who are keeping us afloat.”

The Shunter bags £100,000 bonus with Cheltenham strike

The Shunter won a £100,000 bonus for his connections when beating 20 rivals in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old scooped the windfall with a convincing display in the competitive two-and-a-half-mile affair.

Mullins selected this race from five engagements for The Shunter, who qualified for a crack at the money after landing the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.

The County Carlow handler put faith in 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to do the steering and he showed no pressure as he guided the well-backed 9-4 favourite to victory.

Gainford had The Shunter with the leaders throughout before he went for glory at the second-last fence. He kept on strongly up the hill to win by three lengths from Farclas. Top Notch was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Coole Cody a head away in fourth.

Gainford said: “It’s unbelievable, something you can’t describe and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before.

“Emmet said to jump off smart and if they weren’t going hard enough to be positive but we shouldn’t have that problem.

“He thought the step up in trip would suit. He tends to do his own little thing so going to the last I let him pop then he battled hard from the last.

“I spoke to Davy Russell through the week and he filled me with confidence and I must thank Barry O’Neill (champion amateur jockey) and Colin Bowe (leading point-to-point trainer).

“I didn’t know I’d got the ride until declaration time so I owe my agent Gary Cribbin a lot. I’m 20 and ride for Colin three days a week and at Cullentra House three times a week.”

Mullins said: “It is probably no great reflection on me, but at the time I thought he had to go for a beginners’ chase at Punchestown in September. To go from there, via the Greatwood and Kelso, it’s been an unbelievable journey.

“We booked Jordan because he’s catching everyone’s attention, the owner was fairly insistent on claiming 7lb and at that Jordan was the only option. He showed why today.

“We went to Kelso as I thought it would be easier on the horse than the County Hurdle here, and Kelso was a huge pot in its own right.

“We got that one right and it’s just fallen into place since. You wouldn’t know how far he could go, what we see on the track is as wise as I can be, he doesn’t set the world alight at home but we don’t ask him to do much, the less the better.

“I wouldn’t know what’s next, we haven’t thought beyond this, but I’m sure his owner will pull another rabbit out of the hat.”

Mrs Milner was another for Ireland in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in comfortable fashion.

Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight.

Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar.

Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth.

Nolan said: “That was brilliant – I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it.

“She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you!

“It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.”

He went on: “She is such a tough little mare. After the fall she had in Leopardstown the last day, a lot of horses would have their head down for a week, but she just bounced straight back.

“We ran her over the wrong trip the last day, but we decided to go that way to keep her against the mares. As it’s turned out it’s probably worked out well as she might have ended up with a few more pounds on her back if she’d run in the longer race and run well.”

Nolan, saddling his first Festival winner since Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2011, decided against crossing the Irish Sea this year with his solitary runner.

He added: “It’s disappointing not to be there, but it sounds like you can’t do much anyway and we’ll enjoy it the best we can from home.

“We were jumping up and down here watching the race and nearly went through the skylight!

“We’ve had a few placed horses and things since Noble Prince won. We’re lucky to have some very good owners, who are keeping us afloat.”

Mount Ida – another for Ireland – put up an amazing performance to come from last to first and claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

Leading two out in the hands of Jack Kennedy, the 3-1 favourite gradually went clear to give Denise Foster a second Festival winner after taking over the licence at Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables.

Mount Ida was almost detached from the rest of the field in the early stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, but she got going on the final circuit.

She made stealthy progress and was cantering turning for home. Kennedy made sure she finished off the job and his mount did it in style to win by six and a half lengths from Cloudy Glen. Shantou Flyer was three-quarters of a length away in third. Hold The Note was a further 13 lengths back in fourth.

Rachael Blackmore came down on Plan Of Attack at the third-last fence when holding every chance.

Kennedy – who suffered heartbreak in the opening race of the day when Envoi Allen fell – said: “I was lucky they were going quick, she was doing her best work at the finish.

“We thought she’d stay, but I’d planned it going a bit smoother in the early part. I just had to make do what I could from there, luckily I had a very willing partner.

“We were hoping she’d run a big race, we thought she might be thereabouts if things went smoothly, but I thought my chances were out of the window after four fences.

“At the top of the hill I was fairly happy and I ended up getting there too soon.

“It was a massive thrill, especially after the day I’d had, probably one of the most satisfactory winners I’ve had.”

Mrs Milner perfect in Pertemps for Nolan and Cooper

Mrs Milner continued the Irish domination at the Cheltenham Festival when winning the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in comfortable fashion.

Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight.

Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar.

Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth.

Nolan said: “That was brilliant – I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it.

“She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you!

“It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.”

He went on: “She is such a tough little mare. After the fall she had in Leopardstown the last day, a lot of horses would have their head down for a week, but she just bounced straight back.

“We ran her over the wrong trip the last day, but we decided to go that way to keep her against the mares. As it’s turned out it’s probably worked out well as she might have ended up with a few more pounds on her back if she’d run in the longer race and run well.”

Nolan, saddling his first Festival winner since Noble Prince landed the inaugural running of what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2011, decided against crossing the Irish Sea this year with his solitary runner.

He added: “It’s disappointing not to be there, but it sounds like you can’t do much anyway and we’ll enjoy it the best we can from home.

“We were jumping up and down here watching the race and nearly went through the skylight!

“We’ve had a few placed horses and things since Noble Prince won. We’re lucky to have some very good owners, who are keeping us afloat.”

Franco De Port delights Willie Mullins with Grade One triumph

Franco De Port stepped up on his debut fencing success to give trainer Willie Mullins a record seventh Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The five-year-old won a beginners’ chase at Thurles a month ago, on his first race since disappointing in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

This represented a huge hike in class, but Franco De Port (8-1) proved up to the task. He was kept away from the pace set by Felix Desjy and Benruben, while Franco De Port’s stalemate Blackbow came down at the third fence.

Darver Star and Benruben led the field four out, and while Felix Desjy got back into contention before the second-last by that point Bryan Cooper had brought Franco De Port to challenge and he hit the front at the final fence before going on to land the spoils by four and a half lengths from Darver Star.

Franco De Port was given a quote of 16-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival with Betfair and Paddy Power and was cut to 33-1 from 50-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase with both firms.

Mullins said: “That was a nice surprise. He jumped great and capitalised on the very fast early pace which seemed to catch out a lot of the runners.

“Bryan was terrific, just keeping him together and keeping him jumping. He took what was left to him after they went too fast early on.

“He could stick at that trip, but you’d obviously look at a longer trip for him, maybe two and a half.

“I’d imagine the Dublin Racing Festival will be the plan, we’ll see how he comes out of this race today.”

He also had praise for the winning rider, saying: “Bryan is a top jockey who took his chance today and took it very well.

“We had a fair idea the way the race might work out. We played for that and it worked out.”

Castlegrace Paddy inflicts Fortria defeat on favourite A Plus Tard

Castlegrace Paddy proved too strong for hot favourite A Plus Tard in the Tote Fortria Chase at Navan.

Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard filled the runner-up spot behind Ballyoisin in last year’s renewal of the Grade Two contest – and having since won a Grade One at Leopardstown and finished a close-up third in the Ryanair at Cheltenham, he was well fancied to go one better.

However, it was clear some way from home it was not going to be entirely straightforward for the 1-2 favourite, as he jumped stickily on occasions under Rachael Blackmore behind his pacesetting stablemate Ornua.

After the latter dropped away early in the home straight, Pat Fahy’s stable star Castlegrace Paddy (9-1) took over the lead, with both A Plus Tard and Eclair De Beaufeu in hot pursuit.

In the end it turned into a straight shootout and try as he might, A Plus Tard could never quite get on terms with Castlegrace Paddy, who passed the post half a length to the good in the hands of Bryan Cooper.

“He jumped brilliant and himself and Bryan seem to get on very well,” said Fahy.

“Hopefully we can keep going in this direction. We won the Hilly Way Chase in Cork a couple of years ago, but didn’t have a great year after that, so we won’t get too carried away.

“More than likely we’ll look at Leopardstown over Christmas. He’s beaten a horse there that will probably improve a lot, but so will ours – I’d rate him him a serious horse.

“Maybe if the ground was good you’d be looking to go up in trip, but on that sort of ground I think that (two miles) is his trip.”