Tag Archive for: Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone forced to miss Triumph Hurdle bid

Comfort Zone will miss Friday’s JCB Triumph Hurdle following a setback, Joseph O’Brien has revealed.

The JP McManus-owned four-year-old was among the favourites for the opening race on Cheltenham Gold Cup day.

Having taken the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas, he narrowly downed the previously unbeaten Scriptwriter in the Finesse Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham four weeks later.

Comfort Zone was as short as 7-1 to land the Triumph Hurdle, following his previous win in the trial over the same course and distance.

Though among a strong Irish challenge, spearheaded by the Willie Mullins-trained trip of Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny and Gala Marceau, O’Brien has been forced to draw stumps after the gelding suffered a minor problem.

He said: “Comfort Zone has just had a little hold-up unfortunately. He will potentially make it back for Aintree or Punchestown.

“We are obviously disappointed, but we’re hopeful we will have him back for the later festivals.”

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Comfort Zone edges Scriptwriter in informative Triumph trial

Comfort Zone further highlighted Ireland’s dominance in the juvenile hurdle division when landing a telling blow in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.

Joseph O’Brien’s youngster made a successful raid to British shores when taking the Finale Juvenile Hurdle over Christmas and added a second successive Grade Two prize when downing Milton Harris’ Scriptwriter – who headed into the Cheltenham feature as one of the home team’s best Triumph Hurdle hopes.

Scriptwriter looked to be travelling beautifully as Paddy Brennan charted a typically wide course round Prestbury Park, but the 2-1 favourite Comfort Zone was smuggled into contention by Jonjo O’Neill Jr and having jumped the last level pulled out more on the run to the line to prevail by half a length.

The winner was cut to 10-1 from 14-1 by Betfair for the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival, while he is 7-1 from 8s for the Boodles Fred Winter.

O’Neill said: “Scriptwriter is probably the best gauge-stick in England anyway, so I was happy with the performance.

“Scriptwriter was a non-runner on the day at Chepstow, so I suppose that performance was a bit better – you’d never have known. But I think the track probably suited him and maybe riding him like that was a bit more sensible.”

Asked about plans, he replied: “Leave it to the trainer and connections, they know more than me and what else they have in the races and stuff.

“I think he definitely deserves his chance in whatever race. I wouldn’t mind riding him, anyway. His hurdling was grand, a couple he got in a little bit short but I had him right down the inside and wanted to settle him, so I couldn’t be looking for loads of light.

“The ground is quite dead and he might be better on better ground, but he handles soft at Chepstow, so I’d say he is pretty versatile.”

Winning rider Jonjo O'Neill Jr
Winning rider Jonjo O’Neill Jr (David Davies/PA)

Of Scriptwriter, Milton Harris: “It is just frustrating. Look, they are good horses. We just didn’t get the rub of the green.

“It wasn’t the ground. He just got to the front miles too soon. He is a horse who has come from Ballydoyle, where he has been a lead horse for Derby horses and he has been taught to lead horses, get headed, and that’s him, so you have got to hit it late and he has just travelled too well into the race.

“I was not impressed with finishing second. He is a good horse and we’ll be back and take on the winner.

“He just got there too soon. Paddy is spitting feathers as he got there too soon and is blaming himself. We should have hit the front in the last 50 yards and he would have won – he knows that.”

He added: “We don’t want to be poor losers, but it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest taking on the winner again.

“We will come back to fight another day and take the winner on in March.”

Syd Hosie’s Rock My Way also stated his claims for the Festival when a taking winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Rock My Way ridden by Tom Scudamore (left) before winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Classic Novices’ Hurdle) during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse
Rock My Way ridden by Tom Scudamore (left) before winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Classic Novices’ Hurdle) during Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham Racecourse (David Davies/PA)

Second to Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Weveallbeencaught on his rules debut over the track and trip on New Year’s Day, he built on that performance to record a length and a half success in the hands of Tom Scudamore.

The 13-2 winner was shortened to 16-1 from 50-1 for both the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett – but Rock My Way’s owner-trainer appears to be favouring a step up in trip which brings the latter of those two races into the equation.

“How good is Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse? We are going to find out as he is going to Ireland next week,” said Hosie.

“I would be excited for that, actually. Tom (Scudamore) said maybe step him up in trip as he wanted a bit more of a lead and got to the front a bit early enough, actually and he had a look around.

“Last time, we didn’t have a clue as we bought him out of a point-to-point field. This time, I thought if we could get him in the top three, I wouldn’t look stupid making entries for the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett, so I’m glad about that.

“We’ll get him home and if all is safe and sound, we’ll make a plan. We’ve had a Cheltenham Saturday hunter chase winner and to me that was the pinnacle, but today, this means a lot. It is nice to do it on a Saturday on Trials Day. I used to come to Trials Day with my mates and we’d be in the bottom bar, there.”

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Comfort Zone possible for Leopardstown ahead of Cheltenham challenge

Finale Juvenile Hurdle hero Comfort Zone will have one more run before a possible tilt at the Triumph Hurdle, trainer Joseph O’Brien has revealed.

The Churchill gelding was a neck superior to Dixon Cove in the Grade Two event at Chepstow over Christmas.

The JP McManus-owned four-year-old had previously finished third at Fairyhouse to Triumph Hurdle favourite Lossiemouth, who subsequently franked that form by winning a Grade Two at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.

The Owning Hill handler is keen to head to the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, with the €150,000 Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle on February 4 a likely landing spot.

O’Brien said: “It was a good performance at Chepstow and he has come back from that race well.

“He has an option of going to the Dublin Racing Festival in Ireland and he has an option of going to Cheltenham, but we are considering the Dublin Racing Festival and then, after that, we will look at further plans from there. But that is as far as we’ve got.

“He’s had three runs over hurdles now and his jumping is pretty good. We are potentially looking at Leopardstown, but nothing has been set in stone. It is a long time from Christmas to the Triumph Hurdle.”

Home By The Lee, who sauntered to a three-length success in the Jack De Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, has taken the Grade One contest in his stride, according to O’Brien.

He will head straight to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle in which he was beaten seven and a half lengths in sixth by Flooring Porter last year.

Home By The Lee will head straight to Cheltenham
Home By The Lee will head straight to Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

The Sean O’Driscoll-owned eight-year-old cruised to success over Bob Olinger on his seasonal return at Navan and travelled sweetly in beating Ashdale Bob over three miles on his next start.

O’Brien said: “He has had a very good season so far. The plan is to go straight for the Stayers’. He wasn’t beaten far in it last year and he does look a better horse this year, so hopefully he will go there with a live chance.

“He jumped and travelled well the last day, so we are pleased with his season and looking forward to Cheltenham.”

Another who will make a return to the Festival in March is Scarlet And Dove, who went down by just half a length to Elimay when third in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase last year.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old overturned the form with that rival in no uncertain terms when romping to a 15-length success in a Grade Two at Punchestown in April.

She showed her well-being with a cosy success in a Grade Three contest over two miles and five furlongs at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day. O’Brien is set to run her once more before Cheltenham.

He said: “She’ll have another run in Ireland, in the Opera Hat, which is a mares’ chase at Naas (February 11), and from there she will go straight on to Cheltenham.

“She ran well there last year and we are hoping she will run well there again this year.”

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