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Chatham Street Lad straight back to winning ways after Cheltenham

Chatham Street Lad had no trouble stepping up to three miles to easily win the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase at Limerick.

A creditable fourth to Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham just 10 days previously, the nine-year-old showed no ill-effects from that run.

Trainer Mick Winters thought this Grade Three heat was a good opportunity to try the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner beyond an extended two and a half miles, and so it proved when he outclassed his four rivals.

Chatham Street Lad travelled beautifully throughout, just off the pace set by Defi Bleu and Full Time Score, until Darragh O’Keeffe made his move after the third-last fence.

The even-money favourite cruised into the lead and sealed victory with a superb jump at the last, to come home 11 lengths clear of Defi Bleu. Full Time Score was 48 lengths back in third place.

“He thrived on the conditions and had more time to fiddle his jumps and I never saw Darragh so happy,” said Winters.

“He travelled over to Cheltenham fiercely well, but the ground had dried that little extra fraction for him and I was half-thinking of pulling the plug and not running him.

“I did feel he came home out of Cheltenham very well in himself and he loved these conditions today. I know you put your head on the plate a bit, but you can’t hide.

“The way he jumped there, you wouldn’t mind running him in a National on heavy ground, but I’ll leave that up to the owners.

“There is great prize-money now, like the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over in Cheltenham, and great sponsorship and the money today was outstanding.”

Darragh O’Keeffe enjoys Ulster National success

Darragh O’Keeffe celebrated his 21st birthday in fitting fashion with a smooth success on Fag An Bealach in the Randox Ulster National Handicap Chase at Downpatrick.

O’Keeffe, who won the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown on A Plus Tard in December, brought Arthur Moore’s seven-year-old with a well-timed challenge to land the extended three-and-a-half-mile stamina test.

Dream Conti made most of the running, accompanied by the 14-year-old Kruzhlinin, but it was all change at the business end as Fag An Bealach (17-2) loomed menacingly to make his bid.

Leading at the final fence, Fag An Bealach powered up the hill to land the spoils by nine lengths from Flinck (50-1). Askann was a length and a quarter away in third place, with Er Dancer fourth.

Moore said: “I’m delighted for the Beresfords and Athene Keatinge as they have been very loyal supporters all along.

“I was sort of half-keeping her for the three-mile novice handicap in Navan as a step up to three (miles) and she didn’t get into that – we are probably lucky she didn’t because this race suited her very well. The ground was perfect for her.

“This was her first time over further than two and a half. Her dam is a half-sister to Niche Market, an Irish National winner, so there was no reason why she wouldn’t stay. She got in by the skin of her teeth.

“She still hasn’t won her hurdle race! This is a great day – I rode the winner in my time and previously trained the winner. I rode the winner for Willie Rooney, the grandfather of my son-in-law.

“You wouldn’t know what she would do as she is only a seven-year-old, so it is all in front of her.”

A Plus Tard swoops late to grab Savills success

A Plus Tard finished with a flourish to collar Kemboy in the final strides in a vintage renewal of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

Kemboy looked sure to win the race for a second time in three years, having helped set a strong gallop in the early stages before stablemate Melon took over the lead with a mile to run.

Melon went well clear at one stage, but David Mullins did not panic on Kemboy and when Melon stuttered into the second last, Kemboy reclaimed the lead.

It looked sure to be a Willie Mullins-trained winner as at that stage Allaho was third, but as he dropped away, A Plus Tard could be seen making ground.

Stepping up to three miles for just the second time, Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard (15-2) hit overdrive having jumped the last with many lengths still to find and he ended up providing jockey Darragh O’Keeffe with the biggest win of his career by half a length.

The race lost some of its lustre when the front two in the betting, Minella Indo and Delta Work, departed within two fences of each other early on the second circuit.

The winner was cut to 10-1 from 66s by Betfair for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

“He did everything right, he travelled and I thought we went a really good gallop,” said O’Keeffe.

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“Rachael (Blackmore) said to me beforehand that she was going to sit upsides in front (on Minella Indo), and she was only a couple of lengths ahead of me, so I wasn’t worried.

“I sat away and had Paul Townend in front of me (on Allaho) and he (A Plus Tard) was pinging fences.

“When I gave him a squeeze after jumping the second last, he picked up and he galloped right to the line. After the back of the last I did (think I was going to get there).

“It was brilliant and I’m absolutely over the moon. I can’t thank Henry de Bromhead enough – it’s my first Grade One winner and my first winner for him. This lad had a real, live chance.

“There were a few questions about whether he stayed or not, but he definitely stayed anyway.”

A Plus Tard after winning the Savills Chase
A Plus Tard after winning the Savills Chase (Niall Carson/PA)

De Bromhead hailed O’Keeffe’s effort, adding: “It was some finish, he was brilliant. He stayed really well and it was a super ride from Darragh.

“It was unfortunate with Minella Indo, but he seems OK which is the most important thing and Rachael seems OK.

“It’s very frustrating, but I’m delighted for A Plus Tard, for Darragh and for (owner) Cheveley Park (Stud).

“It was a brilliant ride from Darragh, he was very cool on him.

Henry De Bromhead with his trophy
Henry De Bromhead with his trophy (Niall Carson/PA)

“I said it to (Cheveley Park managing director) Chris Richardson about Darragh and he was very happy after Rachael decided to go with Minella Indo.

“He’s an up-and-coming young rider and we were delighted to get him.

“He stayed on really well in the end. I thought he was staying on in the Ryanair last season and he definitely stayed on really well there.

“He won a Grade One here over two (miles and) one (furlong) last year and now he’s won over three miles. He’s still only six.

“We’ll see what we do now. He had a tough race there so I’ll speak to all the connections and decide after that. I’m delighted with today.”

When asked if he could be a Gold Cup contender, De Bromhead added: “Absolutely, he stayed at it really well and needed every inch of it.

“I wouldn’t like to make any plans yet. We’ll enjoy today as this is a pretty savage race to win.

“We’ll see whether it’s the Ryanair or the Gold Cup, it’s up to everyone involved.”