La Petite Coco shows class at Cork

La Petite Coco took the rise in class in her stride to record an impressive victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes at Cork.

Paddy Twomey’s three-year-old was following in the illustrious hoofprints of subsequent Breeders’ Cup heroine Tarnawa, who had won this Group Three in each of the last two years.

La Petite Coco will need to extend her improvement significantly, of course, to approach the level set by Dermot Weld’s dual Group One and Grade One winner.

Nonetheless, the 2-1 favourite was most convincing under Billy Lee – taking over from the front-running High Heels in the straight and surging clear to win by five and a half lengths from closest market rival Thunder Kiss.

The daughter of Ruler Of The World has therefore put higher-profile, and possibly global, future assignments in her diary – having stepped up so decisively from her second career success at Killarney last month.

Twomey said: “We’ve had her since April, and she has not put a foot wrong.

“I was very keen to go to Killarney the last day for experience when the chance was there.

“The owners wanted to go straight into Group company, but I talked them out of it – and I’m glad now we did.

“She is progressing physically and is enjoying training and has plenty of talent.”
The Tipperary trainer has his sights on possible trips to Europe, even across the Atlantic – or just over the Irish Sea for Qipco British Champions Day.

He added: “She has plenty of entries, and I said after Killarney that the EP Taylor is a possible – but I have her in the Champion Fillies and Mares race at Ascot in October, and the Prix Vermeillle is in France for her also.

“She is versatile ground-wise. While she has to step up past Group Three, I think (this trip of) a mile and a half is no problem to her – although she has the pace for 10 furlongs.

“I was hoping she’d do something like that.”

Earlier on the card, Snapraeterea produced a smart staying performance from the front to return to winning ways in the Listed Platinum Stakes.

Joseph O’Brien’s three-year-old scored decisively, back down slightly in class to this grade after four creditable efforts at up to 10 furlongs in Group Three company.

The 13-2 shot had won over the same seven-furlong trip in Listed class at Naas in May, and repeated the dose here.

Declan McDonogh had Snapraeterea prominent throughout and strode clear in the final two furlongs to win by four lengths from 33-1 outsider Surrounding.
O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell was full of praise for the winner.

“He is one of the toughest, most honest horses you’d ever get,” he said.

“I think the mile and a furlong and a half the last day was too far for him. Declan said he loved this straight seven, and burned them all off one by one.

“John (Farrell) bred and owns all the family, has kept them all – and the horse and owner deserve every success.”

Logo Hunter wins again with bigger targets ahead

Logo Hunter scored successive Listed wins when taking the five-furlong Midsummer Sprint Stakes at Cork for Michael Browne and Billy Lee.

The 5,000 guineas purchase has been a revelation for Browne, who trains just five horses in Tipperary, winning twice before landing the Listed Sole Power Sprint at Naas on his last appearance.

The gelding was sent off the 8-11 favourite and justified those odds when taking up the lead with a furlong left to travel and staying on to triumph by a length and a half from Dickiedooda.

“Michael is at the sales, he’s selling and I’d say it is killing him not to be here,” said owner Patrick Moyles.

“He went very well and Billy was full of praise with him.

“He said the ground was a bit dead but when he asked him to go he went on again, he hadn’t done a whole pile since his last race.”

Browne was expecting the horse to be swiftly sold after his rise to prominence in the sprint division, but Moyles is yet to accept an offer and intends to keep the partnership intact for the time being.

“There was loads of interest and loads of offers but nothing right yet,” said Moyles.

“Maybe there will be after this, although we’ve looked at a few Group races for him, so he’ll go for the Group Two Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh in a month. He is very exciting and we’re all delighted.

“We are enjoying the racing at the minute and if he is sold so be it, but for now we are happy to keep going and he has picked up a good pot today.”

Morph Speed (7-2 joint favourite) claimed his third race for trainer Richard O’Brien when taking the Cork Derby by three-quarters of a length.

The five-year-old only joined O’Brien’s stable in April and his last run saw him win at Leopardstown, a result that earned him a 6lb penalty when he lined up at Cork.

“This is a massive deal for us to win a race of this calibre,” said O’Brien.

“He made a little heavy weather of winning last week, but looks to me like he has stepped forward.

“He is hugely progressive, is a lovely staying handicapper but I might have had my fun as I have a feeling Johnny (Hassett, owner) might sell him.

“He is a beautiful horse, is very straightforward and has really hit a vein of form and looks quite versatile ground-wise.”

Jessica Harrington’s Impeachd Alexander prevailed from a tight finish to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden as the 13-8 favourite.

“She was quite green here on her debut when she missed the kick, so I got her in amongst them and taught her something,” said jockey Shane Foley.

“She was in a different category today, well switched on – maybe even a bit too much in my hands.

“We were headed in the closing stages so she had to be tough.”

Ted Walsh trained a winner for his daughter Katie as London Royal (2-1) struck in the six-furlong Mallow Maiden under Gary Carroll.

“I bought him as a yearling to go to the breeze-ups and he went to the French Arqana Breeze-Ups run in Doncaster last year, however he pulled a muscle in the breeze, I couldn’t sell him and I brought him home,” the winning owner explained.

“When you bring them back from the breeze-ups, it is very competitive and when you come to a premier track in Cork you are hoping and wishing it all goes right, and it did. Gary said he ran to above 80, which is good, and he is open to improvement.

“Everything is for sale and I’m delighted for the owner, she is tricky!”

Screen Siren then avenged her narrow loss in the Cork Racecourse Handicap in May to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies & Mares Handicap at 17-2 for Sarah Lynam and Mike Sheehy.

“I know the family well and have a good few of the relations at home,” Lynam said.

Thunder Kiss takes Munster Oaks glory for Ger Lyons

Thunder Kiss scored her first Group victory when taking the Munster Oaks Stakes at Cork for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane.

The four-year-old was second on her Group Three debut when contesting the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas last time, missing out by three-quarters of a length after coming home behind Insinuendo.

This time filly was triumphant when stepping up in trip, picking off her rivals in the closing stages of the race to prevail by three-quarters of a length at 3-1.

“She has been promising that. She has been black-type placed before, but getting this win was most important,” said Shane Lyons, the trainer’s brother and assistant.

“We knew she would this season as she has strengthened up big time.

“I’m delighted for (owner-breeder) Maurice Regan and all the Newtown Anner team.

“She is not ground-dependent, she has really appreciated stepping up in trip to one mile and four furlongs, albeit she ran a cracker over one-mile-two last time and we’ll have fun in those races.

“She has improved with age and hopefully will improve again next year.

“She could eventually run in those cup races, but we’ll get her home now and make a plan.

“Maurice is a great supporter of ours (and) has a good band of mares as well, so this is most important and is a prestigious race to win.”

Jessica Harrington’s Silence Please was second, with Aidan O’Brien’s High Heels a further length back in third.

Moll thriving for Munster Oaks

Moll is reported to be in prime shape as she bids to land a first Group Three success in the Munster Oaks at Cork.

Trainer Paddy Twomey has had Wednesday’s mile-and-a-half feature in mind for the daughter of Camelot since she won a Listed race over the same course and distance in April.

That was her first outing since last July when she was fourth at Naas behind Even So, who went on to win the Irish Oaks later that month.

“Moll’s in good form, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow,” said her County Tipperary handler.

“This has been her intended target since then. Hopefully now all roads lead to Cork tomorrow.”

Moll’s rivals include Silence Please, in similar ownership, who was a neck ahead of her in third place at Naas last summer.

The Gleneagles filly, trained by Jessica Harrington, was returning from a 243-day absence when fourth to Queen Power in the Group Two Middleton Stakes at York last month.

“She’s going to get the ground she wants. She likes good to firm ground. We’re very happy with her,” said Harrington.

Joseph O’Brien is two-handed – with Mighty Blue and Ubuntu – while his father Aidan relies on High Heels to give him back-to-back victories, after Snow recorded a seventh success in the race for Ballydyole 12 months ago.

Logo Hunter has never been better, according to trainer Michael Browne, as she prepares for the Midsummer Sprint Stakes.

The three-year-old has gone up 28lb since March, thanks to three victories and two seconds.

“He’s in great form – he’s never been better,” said Browne.

“He should win, but you never know. He’s the highest-rated horse in the race. Hopefully he will.”

Harrington is doubly-represented in the Listed contest by Santosha and Dickiedooda.

“They will both love the ground,” she said.

Ger Lyons runs three-time Listed scorer Frenetic and My Laureate, with Ado McGuinness responsible for top-weight Laugh A Minute.

Princess Zoe given Vintage Crop aim after lacklustre comeback

Tony Mullins feels a combination of factors contributed to Princess Zoe’s underwhelming return to action at Cork on Saturday.

The daughter of Jukebox Jury enjoyed a meteoric rise after being bought from Germany last year, progressing from a mark of 64 when second on her Irish debut at Navan in June to claim top-level honours in the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend in Paris.

While she came up short in her bid for a sixth successive win in October’s Prix Royal-Oak, she was far from disgraced in finishing fourth behind the Mark Johnston-trained Subjectivist, allowing connections to spend the winter dreaming.

Hopes were high ahead of her comeback run in the Listed Noblesse Stakes – but Princess Zoe ultimately beat only one rival.

Mullins said: “We had a suspicion that she was in season, but we brought her to the vet this morning and she wasn’t. She’s coming into season now, so whether that unsettled her, I don’t know.

“I’d say it was a combination of ground and trip and it being her first run of the season.

“Joey (Sheridan) said she was just going as fast as she was able to most of the time.”

Princess Zoe’s next potential target is the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on April 25.

“We’ll wait for a bit of rain. We’re still looking at the Vintage Crop, but if the rain doesn’t come she won’t run,” Mullins added.

“She’s in good form and we’re just hoping that things will improve for the run.”

Waitnsee breaks barren spell with Cork strike

Waitnsee landed an authoritative victory in the BARONERACING.COM Chase at Cork.

A field of six runners went to post for the Grade Three feature, with Go Another One the 13-8 favourite.

The John Ryan-trained Waitnsee was a 7-2 chance to claim a first win since opening her account over fences at Tramore last summer, since when she had finished second on four occasions.

Kevin Brouder’s mount looked booked for minor honours once more after making a bad mistake two fences from the finish, but managed to regather her momentum to join Spyglass Hill at the final obstacle.

This time Waitnsee was much more fluent and she picked up well on the run-in to score by four and a half lengths from Spyglass Hill, with Go Another One third.

Ryan said: “She deserved that and her run here against The Shunter, Heaven Help Us and when she was mugged by Home By The Lee in Cork the last day, was good enough to win this race in my opinion.

“She has three seconds in black-type races and won her maiden hurdle by 24 lengths. I always thought she was a proper mare and she has a heap of very good relations.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does with her and she’ll go to Punchestown now.”

Trainer Norman Lee and conditional jockey Simon Torrens combined to land the BARONERACING.COM Hurdle with 14-1 shot Sole Pretender.

With 4-6 favourite Petit Mouchoir under pressure when falling at the second-last, Sole Pretender readily put the high-class Bapaume in his place with a five-length verdict.

Lee said “I never had a good horse until we got him. He is a proper good horse and we can keep dreaming.

“We’ll make plans tonight or tomorrow, but you can go anywhere once you’ve beaten a horse who was second in Cheltenham (Petit Mouchoir).

“He’ll improve a little bit from today and we won’t get carried away – talking never made a horse win.”

Botani (10-1) got the better of favourite Zoffanien in a thrilling finish to the O’Dwyers Steel Dundrum Easter Handicap Hurdle.

Just a short head separated the pair at the line, with rider Brian Hayes completing a double after the earlier success of The West Awaits (6-4) in the O’Flynn Motors Mallow Mares Maiden Hurdle.

Hayes said: “She (Botani) deserved that as she was unlucky in two maiden hurdles in Thurles when she was touched off. In fairness to (trainer) Colm Murphy, he said he’d try to win a big pot rather than lose her maiden status.

“I’m absolutely delighted for Colm Murphy and he has been very good and loyal to me. I rode a lot for him in the past and since he has got his licence back, I have done plenty of work for him.

“He has point to pointers and is training the odd few horses for the track – you don’t lose it.”

Jessica Harrington’s Ya Ya Baby justified 10-11 favouritism in the opening Dermot Casey Tree Care Maiden Hurdle under Sean O’Keeffe while former cross country ace Josies Orders struck gold in the Munster Waste Management Handicap Hurdle.

Winner of the 2016 Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and a multiple scorer over the banks course at Punchestown, Josies Orders had not triumphed in over two years but partnered by Phidelma Elvin, the 13-year-old came home two lengths clear in the colours of trainer Enda Bolger at odds of 100-1.

He said: “I said to Phidelma I’d give her a fiver for every horse she passed, so who’s the fool this evening!

“Phidelma comes down from Wicklow every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and leaves at 4.30am and deserves to get her chance.

“Mr (JP) McManus (former owner) gave the horse to me for the kids to have fun with and she wanted to ride him over the banks at Punchestown, so we said we’d give him a tune-up today and fair play to her.

“He seemed a light of older days, but Aileen Sloane Lee did a great job with him as she had him until recently and freshened him up taking him to the beach.

“He was on fire today and Nina Carberry was the first one on the phone because she retired from him (in 2018), so it is a great story.”

Scorpion’s Revenge sprang a 25-1 surprise for American trainer Keri Brion in the closing Jim Ryan Racecourse Services (Pro/Am) Flat Race.

Brion has managed a small team in Ireland through the winter, with this son of Scorpion providing her with a first success.

She said: “I was starting to doubt whether I’d get a winner and am due to go back on Saturday.

“Our season is getting ready to start in America and all the horses are going back to Saratoga to run for big money, and the owners rightly want them home and freshened up.

“I sourced this horse for the Naylors in November to come back to America and he was just about ready to run, but we gave him the winter off as he was never going to like the winter ground in Ireland.

“We said if the ground got better we’d give him a run and, finally, the weather played into my favour!”

Brion added: “I think we will come back – the owners have really enjoyed it and a few of them would love to come to the races.

“I learned a lot, but was just missing this win. I know exactly now what type of horses are needed and it is a high standard.

“French Light is a Grade One horse in America, but runs in a novice handicap hurdle tomorrow at Fairyhouse, so that tells you what you’re looking at. Plus, you are competing in the winter, which is the toughest racing.”

Moll on top as Princess Zoe flounders at Cork

Moll was a decisive winner of Cork’s Irish Stallion Farms EBF Noblesse Stakes – in which Princess Zoe proved a major disappointment.

The Listed contest was billed as Princess Zoe’s opportunity, on her first start of the new season, to consolidate her remarkable improvement last year and demonstrate she can be as effective back at this shorter trip of a mile-and-a-half.

Tony Mullins’ admirable mare was sent off 3-1 to do so but could never get competitive after being held up on ground quicker than she has often encountered – and 5-2 favourite Mighty Blue could not threaten seriously either.

Jessica Harrington’s Flor De La Luna hit the front on entering the final furlong – but with the race seemingly at her mercy, she veered to her right, losing all momentum.

In any case Moll, close up behind subsequent Irish Oaks winner Even So when she last ran, had made stylish progress to get within touching distance and was perfectly placed to take advantage of Flor De La Luna’s waywardness.

Billy Lee rode the 6-1 shot out for a one-and-a-quarter-length win, and she looks to have a bright future for Paddy Twomey.

The Tipperary trainer said: “She was fourth to Even So at Naas last year, and was only beaten three lengths, but got injured.

“Moll has top-class ability, and I supplemented her for the Irish Oaks last year – and I wasn’t messing when I did it.

“It’s day by day with Moll, and if there is an ease in the ground she’ll run in the Munster Oaks back here in June.

“She has the ability to go all the way. But she has been physically immature – and everything she is doing, she is doing on natural ability. You have to be patient.”

All smiles for McGuinness after Laugh A Minute’s Cork success

Laugh A Minute was a surprise winner of the Listed Sean Barrett Bloodstock Stakes at Cork.

A smart performer a couple of years ago for Roger Varian, Laugh A Minute was on a losing streak of nine since winning on his second outing for Ado McGuinness.

Well beaten when favourite at Dundalk last time out, Gavin Ryan’s mount looked to have plenty to do with two furlongs to run.

Eventual runner-up Fiscal Rules and Gustavus Weston were in the process of battling it out, with the favourite Lustown Baba and Make A Challenge all in there pitching.

However, Laugh A Minute found a rare turn of foot and soon quickened clear to win by a decisive two lengths at 16-1.

Fiscal Rules did well to cling on for second – with Make A Challenge, who was not disgraced in Group One company on a couple of occasions last season, back in third.

“We were running this lad in Premier Handicaps – and his work at home was very, very good – and we said we’d bite the bullet this year and go back to Listed races,” said McGuinness.

“He is a good horse and has been galloping with Harry’s Bar (stablemate). He had Group form before we got him, and had solid form. He is a little hyper but was on song today, and I’m blessed that I have a good bunch of horses.

“Gavin (Ryan) said it rode a really good race, and he picked up and put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

“I’d say his handicapping days are over now, and he’ll stay in Stakes races. We have plenty of options for him.”

Mullins has big plans for Princess Zoe

Tony Mullins is “thinking big” as Princess Zoe makes her seasonal reappearance in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Noblesse Stakes at Cork.

Having been rated as low as 64 when she joined Mullins from Germany, the grey mare made rapid progress through the handicap ranks, winning five races – including the Group One Prix du Cadran.

She signed off for the season with a fourth-place finish behind Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist in the Prix Royal-Oak. But Mullins is keen to see in the early weeks of the season if she has the required pace for the top races over a mile-and-a-half, with the dream being a run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

“The plan is to get two runs into her in April while there’s a cut in the ground, and then we’ll plan the rest of the season after that,” he said.

“I’m keen to go back over a mile and a half with her. People have it in their heads that she’s a dour stayer – but from the work I’m seeing, I think she’ll be as effective or if not more over that trip.

“She’s won over a mile and a half twice at Galway. Slow horses tend not to be able to do that.

“It’s anxious times for us – we’re not used to this.”

With Subjectivist winning in Dubai last weekend, there was clearly no disgrace in her defeat.

“Subjectivist was impressive in Dubai, and I thought her run behind him was equally as good as her first in my opinion. She’d had two trips to France – I thought that was very good,” said Mullins.

“Hopefully she’s as good this year. If she is, the world is our oyster.”

Assessing Saturday’s return, he said: “There are no easy races in Ireland now – they are so competitive.

“Having had a quick look, I thought Jessie Harrington’s (Flor De La Luna) and Ger Lyons’ (Yaxeni) would be the biggest dangers – but if we under-perform there’d be others.

“Her work seems to be as good. She wouldn’t be 100 per cent, but we’re not far off it. She’s a strange filly, because she loves hard work.

“We gave her a break after Longchamp, but she was very unhappy, and we had to put her back in light training all winter because she was very upset. She’s not like us, craving a break – she loves her work.

“So while she’s fit, she might not just be as razor sharp as she would be after a run or two.

“We’ve half an idea of running at Royal Ascot – then after that, I can’t see her running again until September. We have put her in the Yorkshire Cup, but we have a plan to go to the Vintage Crop at Navan at the end of April – if it came up firm we have the York option.

“It might mean meeting Stradivarius at York, but I can say if we can’t beat him then we haven’t got an Arc filly – we’re thinking big.”

Noel Meade enjoys birthday winner as Bloke delivers at Cork

Hes A Hardy Bloke provided Noel Meade with a winner on his 70th birthday with victory in the opening race at Cork on Saturday.

The Tu Va handler has established himself as one of the great Irish National Hunt trainers of the modern era since saddling his first winner some 50 years ago – and has won the Irish trainers’ title on multiple occasions.

Meade’s many Grade One winners include Harchibald, Go Native, Pandorama and Road To Riches.

Carrying the colours of six-times Cheltenham Festival-winning mare Quevega, Hes A Hardy Bloke was the 11-8 favourite for the GAIN Rated Novice Hurdle – and was not hard pressed to beat Takarengo by four lengths in the hands of Sean Flanagan.

The jockey said: “Happy days – it’s nice to get one for the birthday boy!

“The have gone a really nice gallop in the ground. He is a horse we thought had a very high cruising speed, but he has got through the ground quite well and has done it easily.”

The Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame ran out a wide-margin winner of the Maiden Hurdle.

A 250,000 euros purchase two months ago after impressing on his sole start in the point-to-point field, the grey looked an exciting recruit judged on this 21-length demolition job under Rachael Blackmore.

“He is a real chaser – he is a good, genuine type of horse who loves jumping and should have a nice future over fences,” said Morris.

“He wouldn’t show you a whole lot at home. We’ll now talk to Robcour (owner Brian Acheson) and see what they want to do.”

Willie Mullins continued his fantastic run of form, with the champion trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins steering Koshari to glory in the GAIN Handicap Hurdle.

The 4-1 shot defied a lengthy absence of 875 days to score by three and a half lengths from Fairyhill Run.

“It was nice to get it and it’s a proper training performance from Willie to have him back here in that shape after a long lay-off,” said the winning rider.

“He has done well physically from his break, did it well today and hopefully he can pick up a few more races.”

Velvet Elvis was an 11-8 winner of the Happy New Year From All At Cork Maiden Hurdle for Tom Gibney and Darragh O’Keeffe, before Robert Tyner and Phillip Enright combined to land the Thanks To All The Frontline Workers Beginners Chase with even-money shot Exit To The West.

Enright said: “She was entitled to do that on her form – she jumps and she stays and is proven on her two chase runs.

“She didn’t really do any more than you’d expect with the type of race it was.”

Robert Widger is eyeing high-profile races at Leopardstown and Cheltenham for Treacysenniscorthy after claiming top honours in the GAIN Handicap Chase, with Kevin Brouder the winning rider.

Widger said: “He’s racing off a lower mark than his hurdles rating and probably a lot of those horses today were exposed, so off his hurdles mark you’d have given him a chance.

“The Leopardstown Chase is one aim and there’s a Grand National trial at Naas over three miles and four furlongs in March. We’ll aim him for Leopardstown and if the ground is OK he’ll go for that.

“We half-thought he might be entitled to a little squeak in something like the Kim Muir at Cheltenham – three miles and two furlongs on better ground would suit him.”

Dot Love’s Betty Zane was a surprise 25-1 winner of the concluding bumper.

Exeter frozen off

Friday’s meeting at Exeter has been called off due to a frozen track.

An initial inspection was held at 9.30am and while the frost sheets deployed on the track had done their job, officials were concerned by a slow rise in temperature, forcing another check.

That 10.30am inspection showed there had not been sufficient improvement in conditions, with the track tweeting: “Unfortunately, we have not passed this morning’s second inspection. New Year’s Day Racing at Exeter has been abandoned.”

Musselburgh is the only jumps meeting to go ahead after it passed an 8am precautionary check. The card scheduled for Cheltenham had already been cancelled earlier in the week.

Saturday’s Cork card will also need a morning inspection, with officials planning to assess conditions at 8am.

An Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board statement said: “Due to the risk of frost overnight, there will be an 8am precautionary inspection at Cork tomorrow morning ahead of the fixture scheduled to take place on Saturday.

“Following a dry 24 hours the ground at Cork is now soft to heavy and the forecast is mainly dry and cold.”

Super Sayce is all Gold for Mick Winters

Sayce Gold looks a hugely exciting prospect for Mick Winters having strolled to victory in the Kerry Group Stayers Novice Hurdle at Cork.

Winters has scaled the heights of the game with the likes of Rebel Fitz and Missunited – and after a few quiet seasons he looks sure to be back in big time with this Trevor Hemmings-owned mare.

The seven-year-old won a point-to-point last November and broke her duck under rules in her second bumper at Fairyhouse last month.

Sent immediately over hurdles, the imposing type stepped up to just short of three miles at Thurles and fairly bolted up, making all the running.

Up in class to Grade Three company on this occasion, she was ridden with more restraint by Darragh O’Keeffe but never looked in any danger.

Always travelling extremely strongly, O’Keeffe was happy to stick to the rail while several rivals went in search of better ground and on turning into the straight Sayce Gold (7-4) was clear.

She did not have to be asked a question to beat Ragnar Lodbrok by eight lengths.

“We are very lucky to have one like that and we have great help at home and all work together. Darragh O’Keeffe came over the other day when Brian Hayes (riding at Punchestown) couldn’t make it and did a bit of work with her,” said Winters.

“She learned a bit today as she didn’t have to do it all in front.

“I think two and a half miles is perfect for her and soft ground is a help – if the ground was too quick you wouldn’t run, she loves to put her toe into it. I have no idea what plans are and I’ll leave that to Mick Meagher, Trevor’s manager.”

Reflecting on some of the good horses he has had in his care, Winters said: “Some horses you can see, some you can’t. When Rebel Fitz came into the yard, he reminded me of Master Minded, although I had one horse Monsignor (dual Cheltenham winner) who was a great mover and I even had him out hunting, but he slipped me.

“I had him out hunting and a man hopped off him after a day’s hunting and said ‘he’s only a hunter!’.

“If she (Sayce Gold) is one piece and we are all alive, fences are tempting.”

Mount Ida put in a huge leap at the final fence to win the Kerry Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, the six-year-old had finished one place behind Joseph O’Brien’s Scarlet And Dove in third at this track last month, and the two met again on the same terms.

It was the two main market protagonists who were fighting out the finish in the straight and the final fence proved a turning point.

Denis O’Regan was positive on his mount, asking for everything, and she fairly flew it, while Scarlet And Dove was not quite as fluent.

Mount Ida, the 5-2 favourite, went on to win by four and a half lengths.

“She stayed at it well. I felt if she showed up in the same form as the last day, with a good round of jumping, and go forward a bit earlier, she was bound to be competitive,” said O’Regan.

“She possibly came forward from her run the last day and that run the last day wasn’t a bad race. It is lovely to win the race and get the black type all in one.

“It’s great to get a winner for Gordon.”

Chacun Pour Soi makes no mistake at Cork

Chacun Pour Soi justified long odds-on favouritism to make a winning return to action in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

Trained by Willie Mullins, the eight-year-old does not have many miles on the clock and showed his class when beating stablemate Min in the Dublin Chase last season.

He was among the favourites for the Queen Mother Champion Chase but missed the race at the 11th hour with a minor setback and was having his first run for 309 days.

With stable jockey Paul Townend staying loyal to Chacun Pour Soi rather than riding Min in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown, the 1-5 market leader was settled in third as Djingle and Cash Back forced the gallop.

Just briefly Townend had to give his mount a shake of the reins to take closer order entering the straight, but he was soon back on the bridle and a good leap at the last sealed the deal.

Stablemate Cash Back looked booked for second but took a crashing fall at the last, bringing down Djingle. Thankfully both horses and jockeys escaped unhurt.

While Betfair trimmed the winner into 11-4 from 3-1 for Cheltenham in March, Coral went 3-1 from 7-2.

“It was a great start for him. He was fairly asleep early on in the race and got a good blow into himself,” said Townend.

“He had the other two well beaten when they fell at the last and was entitled to win. Thankfully he did and it’s good to get him back on the track.”

Paul Townend with Chacun Pour Soi after victory at Cork
Paul Townend with Chacun Pour Soi after victory at Cork (Thomas Weekes/PA)

Regarding his jumping, Townend added: “Touch wood, he’s deadly – I don’t want to put the mockers on him. He’s very good.

“The other two have to show their hands earlier with the way they race, he just had that bit of class.

“He took a good blow and I think he’ll come on plenty for it.”

All eyes on returning Chacun Pour Soi at Cork

Chacun Pour Soi begins a campaign connections hope will culminate with a belated tilt at the Queen Mother Champion Chase in Sunday’s Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old was considered Ireland’s leading hope for last season’s Champion Chase after beating esteemed stable companion Min at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February.

However, while the French import travelled to Cheltenham, he had to be withdrawn on the morning of the race due to a stone bruise, while the coronavirus outbreak prevented him bidding for compensation at either Aintree or Punchestown.

Chacun Pour Soi will be all the rage to make a successful return in a race Mullins has already won 10 times, with Douvan and Un De Sceaux among the equine stars to feature on the recent roll of honour.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Chacun Pour Soi is in great form at home. The Hilly Way has been a very lucky race for us and this looks an ideal opportunity to start his season.

“Hopefully all roads lead to the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.”

Chacun Pour Soi carries the familiar colours of Rich Ricci, who would surely love to provide Mullins with his very first Champion Chase success next spring.

Speaking on the Nick Luck Daily Podcast, Ricci’s racing manager Joe Chambers said: “The situation is he’s in very good form at home and worked very well on Tuesday.

“Last year he started off at Leopardstown at Christmas and it was pretty evident in his subsequent run at the Dublin Racing Festival that he had improved a lot fitness-wise for that. Willie is happy enough to let him take his chance under a penalty at Cork on Sunday.

“He’s obviously got a lot of ability, but it was a kick in the nether regions on the Wednesday morning of Cheltenham when Willie called to say he couldn’t run in the Queen Mother.

Chosen Mate is among Chacun Pour Soi's rivals
Chosen Mate is among Chacun Pour Soi’s rivals (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’d like to think he’s up being extremely competitive in a Champion Chase – I think he has demonstrated he has a bit of a ‘wow’ factor about him.

“We’d love to have a clear run with him and not be in any doubt where we stand.”

Chacun Pour Soi is joined by stable companion Cash Back in the Grade Two contest, while Gordon Elliott’s Grand Annual winner Chosen Mate and Darasso from Joseph O’Brien’s yard also feature in a seven-strong field.

Appreciate It makes no mistake on hurdling bow

Champion Bumper runner-up Appreciate It made a smooth start to his career over hurdles at Cork.

The six-year-old was the hot favourite to provide trainer Willie Mullins with a 10th Champion Bumper success at the Cheltenham Festival last season following successive wins in that sphere, but was unable to resist the late surge of stable companion Ferny Hollow.

With Ferny Hollow having made a successful switch to the jumping game at Gowran Park on Friday, Appreciate It was 1-12 to emulate him in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle under Paul Townend.

The son of Jeremy jumped smartly throughout, and while 50-1 shot Master Mcshee gave him a lead into the home straight and did his best to make a race of it, Appreciate It pulled two and a half lengths clear on the run-in with the minimum of fuss.

“I’m very happy and he jumped brilliantly the whole way and picked up well from the back of the last,” said Townend.

“He is deadly to jump and had a lot of it done (for previous trainer Pat Doyle) before we went jumping him.

“Over two miles you couldn’t be happier with him and he’ll have no problem going further.”

Bet365 make Appreciate It the 10-1 favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend enjoyed another successful day
Willie Mullins and Paul Townend enjoyed another successful day (Simon Cooper/PA)

Mullins and Townend had earlier teamed up to land division one of the Sobac Used On Cork Racecourse Maiden Hurdle with French recruit Ganapathi.

Carrying the Al Boum Photo colours of owner Joe Donnelly, the 2-5 favourite followed up a win on the Flat in his homeland with a near two-length verdict.

Townend said: “I’d say he’ll come on plenty for it, he jumped very very well but missed the last.

“It is very testing and with the one (Howdyalikemenow) going off in front it made it a true run race. We went our own gallop in behind and he kept up the gallop and I think he’ll improve for it.”

The champion trainer and jockey went on to complete a treble on the card, with Yukon Lil justifying even-money favouritism in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase.

Mullins also saddled a winner at Navan in Blackbow.

“She’s was very good. I galloped into the first a little bit but she was awesome after that,” Townend added.

“I suppose she didn’t get a good run at last season as it was cut short, but she’s a smart mare and she’ll do well in those mares’ chases.”