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Abacadabras just magic in Aintree Hurdle

Abacadabras made amends for crashing out at Cheltenham when taking Grade One honours in the Betway Aintree Hurdle at the Liverpool course.

The Denise Foster-trained seven-year-old exited at the third flight in the Champion Hurdle – but bounced back to strike in the hands of Jack Kennedy.

Abacadabras (5-1) had the loose Jason The Militant for company in the closing stages and kept on strongly to hold Buzz by a length and a quarter, with Millers Bank two and a quarter lengths in third and Buveur D’Air fourth.

The latter was leading when Jason The Militant, who unseated Rachael Blackmore after jumping the seventh flight, went across him at the second-last.

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The winner is owned by Gigginstown House Stud, whose racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “We thought he’d go well at Cheltenham, but he was unlucky there.

“There was no question he stayed the (two-and-a-half-mile) trip. He can idle in front and he’s been called some names in the past, but if you go through his form this season he’s had excuses.

“He needed the run the first day, he won nicely next time, he scoped badly at Leopardstown over Christmas then the ground was too heavy in the Irish Champion.

“It was unfortunate what happened at Cheltenham, but he was very good today. Jack was very good on him and I’m delighted for all at Cullentra.

“We actually thought he was a little unlucky against Shishkin as a novice, we were actually coming back at him at the line (in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle).”

Looking to the future, O’Leary said: “Hopefully he’ll come home with a smile on his face and there’s a chance he could go to Punchestown.

“I’d imagine he’ll stay hurdling next season, but we’ll have a chat about that later on.”

Abacadabras and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Betway Aintree Hurdle
Abacadabras and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Betway Aintree Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Representing Foster was Lisa O’Neill, who said: “It was disappointing at Cheltenham. Everything seems to have worked out well and it’s great he could come here today and prove himself at this level again.

“He seemed perfectly fine after his fall. He came out of it really well so this was an option coming soon enough, but because he felt good we took the opportunity.

“He was second to Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle and he won the Morgiana back in November so we were confident he was going to run well coming here. It was a step up in trip, but it really suited him.

“It’s a possibility he could go to Punchestown. We’ll take him home and see how he is after the run and see what the owners want to do.”

Elimay and Mount Ida clash at Fairyhouse

Elimay and Mount Ida are set to engage in an intriguing clash for the Download The BoyleSports App Mares Chase at Fairyhouse.

The Willie Mullins-trained Elimay was considered one of the bankers of the week at last month’s Cheltenham Festival when contesting the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, but came off second-best after a titanic tussle with stablemate Colreevy.

Denise Foster’s Mount Ida, meanwhile, did claim Festival glory – coming from a seemingly impossible position to run out a ready winner of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.

Elimay is one of two runners for JP McManus in Saturday’s Listed contest, along with Demi Plie from Padraig Roche’s yard.

The leading owner’s racing manager, Frank Berry, said of Elimay: “She had a tough race in Cheltenham – but Willie seems happy with her, and there is not much else for her for a while, so she takes her chance.

“It looks a competitive race. Mount Ida was very good at the Festival and will take a lot of beating.”

Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Abbey Magic and Zarkareva complete the line-up.

The most valuable race on the opening afternoon of the Easter Festival is the 80,000 euro RYBO Handicap Hurdle.

A 20-strong field is headed by Thosedaysaregone, with Foster’s Eclair De Beaufeu next in the list following his fourth-placed finish in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mullins has claimed five of the last eight renewals of the lucrative contest and this year saddles five runners in Foveros, Uradel, Ruaille Buaille, Hybery and Robinnia.

The McManus silks are carried by Foster’s Magic Tricks and the Des McDonogh-trained Hearts Are Trumps.

Berry added: “Hearts Are Trumps never runs a bad race and will hopefully run well.

“Magic Tricks is in good form, but lacks a bit of experience.”

McManus also has a leading contender for the 50,000 euro I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final, in Capodanno.

Since arriving from France, the Manduro gelding has run three times for Mullins – winning at Clonmel as well as being placed twice.

“It’s a very competitive race, and three miles is a bit of an unknown,” said Berry.

“Willie thinks he’s in good form, so we’ll see how he goes.”

Capodanno’s rivals include stablemates Fighter Allen and Lady Breffni, top-weight On Eagles Wings and three Foster-trained runners in Dunboyne, Ragnar Lodbrok and Folcano.

Tiger rolls back the years to win at Cheltenham again

Tiger Roll was an incredible winner at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time when reclaiming his Glenfarclas Chase crown in scintillating fashion.

Having hitherto disappointed this season, it seemed the form that had seen him win back-to-back Grand Nationals was in the past.

But back at his favourite track and sent off the 9-2 second-favourite behind his conqueror from last season, Easysland, he looked a lot younger than his 11 years skipping round the cross-country course.

The French challenger briefly closed up and looked threatening, but it soon became apparent that Keith Donoghue had only given Tiger Roll a breather.

He quickly went clear again and rounding the home turn the race was over, with his only danger in front of him – but he skipped the last and powered home by 18 lengths from Easysland, with Some Neck third.

Now in the care of Denise Foster following long-time trainer Gordon Elliott’s well-chronicled ban, Tiger Roll usually runs in this race prior to heading to Aintree for the National, but the decision was taken a few weeks ago to take him out of the race as connections believed his handicap mark was unfair.

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: “That was unbelievable – what a fantastic horse, we’re over the moon here. He’s a legend of a horse.

“There was a rush to retire this horse earlier in the season, but he’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is, and we always said we’ll wait to see how he gets on over the cross-country fences once more. To win at five Festivals is amazing, what a horse.

“Aintree is off the agenda and we’ve no regrets about that. Both him and Easysland are rated too high. He is rated the equal of our Gold Cup horse, Delta Work, and we know he’s not as good.

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“It’s going to be hard to retire him after that, now, and he loves racing in any case.

“He’ll probably have to run at Punchestown in the Grade One, where he will probably prove he is nowhere near a 166-rated horse, and it is a pity we have to do that.

“Cross-country racing got this horse back after he had completely lost his way, but we’ll have to go in a Grade One just to prove he has the wrong rating. He’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is.

“Whatever we decide to do, and if he never wins another race, we will enjoy today.”

Donoghue said: “He really came alive today and jumped brilliant. I was in control of the race from halfway and within his comfort zone – when Tiger Roll is like that, you don’t take him back.

“We never doubted that we had him peaking for the right time. We were happy with his last run in Navan on ground that he absolutely hates.

“I knew the way he was going today, it would take a good horse to get by him.

“We had the faith and knew what this horse could show. There’s no better horse than Tiger Roll to silence the doubters.”

Tiger Roll came home well clear at Cheltenham
Tiger Roll came home well clear at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Lisa O’Neill, representing Foster, said: “He’s a sensation – words cannot describe what he is.

“He means so much to the team at home. Some people might have lost a bit of faith after his last few runs, but we retained all the faith we had in him and knew he still retained plenty of fire in his belly. He showed it there today.

“I suppose he disappointed here in November and then had a run over hurdles. Neither of those runs were too encouraging, but he tells you when he’s feeling alive at home and he loves coming to Cheltenham and coming up that hill and the sun on his back.

“He showed what ability he has today to turn the tables on Easysland from last year.

Tiger Roll (right) clears the barrels on his way to victory
Tiger Roll (right) clears the barrels on his way to victory (Michael Steele/PA)

“He’s been a revelation for Keith and Davy Russell, of course, winning two Grand Nationals.

“He showed real enthusiasm and sweetness for the game today.”

On not running in National, she added: “Gigginstown thought it was the best choice to take him out and I suppose they have his best interests at heart.

“We’ll go home and speak to the owners and see what the plan is then.”

There was a sad postscript to the race, as it emerged Kings Temptation suffered a fatal injury.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “Sadly the Ben Case-trained Kings Temptation suffered a forelimb fracture in the cross-country race and had to be euthanised.”

Zanahiyr and Tritonic clash in Triumph Hurdle

Tritonic and Zanahiyr are among eight juveniles declared for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday.

Zanahiyr is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles this season and edges favouritism for Denise Foster, who recently took over the training licence at Cullentra House from the suspended Gordon Elliott.

The Alan King-trained Tritonic, who was runner-up on the Flat at Royal Ascot last summer, is the clear pick of the home team after successive jumping wins at Ascot and Kempton.

Next in the betting is Quilixios, who is three from three since arriving in Ireland and impressed in Grade One company at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned four-year-old will make his debut for Henry de Bromhead under Rachael Blackmore after being moved from Elliott’s yard earlier in the month.

David Pipe has high hopes for course-and-distance winner Adagio, while Willie Mullins runs Tax For Max and Haut En Couleurs, who was a narrow winner on his only previous start in France.

Historic Heart (Nigel Hawke) and Talking About You (Sean Curran) complete the octet.

A much larger field of 17 runners have been declared for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett
Barbados Buck’s runs in the Albert Bartlett (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Leading Irish hopes for the three-mile contest include the Mullins-trained Stattler and Foster’s pair of Fakiera and Torygraph.

Paul Nicholls is responsible for two of the big British-trained contenders in Barbados Buck’s and Threeunderthrufive.

Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe and Adrimel from Tom Lacey’s yard are others to consider in a competitive heat.

Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares' Chase
Elimay is part of a strong Mullins team in the Mares’ Chase (Brian Lawless/PA)

Petit Mouchoir heads a maximum field of 26 runners for the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, while likely favourite Billaway heads 18 declared for the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup.

Mullins appears to hold the aces in the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, with market principals Elimay and Colreevy, as well as Salsaretta and Cabaret Queen, part of an 11-strong line-up.

Ireland’s champion trainer is also responsible for the likely favourite in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in the form of the JP McManus-owned Gentleman De Mee.

Black Tears foils Concertista in Mares’ Hurdle thriller

Black Tears got up in the final strides to give trainer Denise Foster a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

Foster is currently in charge of Gordon Elliott’s string at Cullentra House Stables in County Meath while he is serving a suspension.

Jack Kennedy produced Black Tears (11-1) with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny the Willie Mullins-trained 10-11 favourite Concertista in a thrilling finish to the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Great White Shark and Floressa made the early running, with Roksana and Indefatigable tracking them and Concertista held up at the rear.

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The complexion of the race changed coming down the hill when Roksana made her bid – but Concertista was hot on her heels.

The latter looked the likely winner when she jumped the last in front, but she had no answer to Black Tears, who got up to win by a head with Roksana two and three-quarter lengths away in third and Indefatigable fourth.

Elliott was banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, after an image of him sitting on a dead horse appeared on social media. Foster took over the licence at the yard last week.

Black Tears (left) and Concertista battle it out
Black Tears (left) and Concertista battle it out (Tim Goode/PA)

Kennedy said: “She jumped and travelled brilliant the whole way. The line was coming and we were just starting to get up so I was praying it wouldn’t come to soon, it didn’t, thank God.

“To be honest we’d have been delighted if she’d finished in the first three and I knew turning in I had a fair chance, as she was going to stay going. It was just a case of if the line came too soon.”

He added: “It’s massive that she’s won (given the recent headlines). The amount of effort that everyone puts in at home it’s days like these that make it all worthwhile.

“We’ve gone through a bit of a tough time, but we’ve kept going and showed that today.”

Black Tears and Jack Kennedy on the way to victory
Black Tears and Jack Kennedy on the way to victory (Michael Steele/PA)

Lisa O’Neill, yard representative, speaking from Cullentra House Stables, said: “Denise was the first one on the phone and she was absolutely over the moon as it was her first Cheltenham winner and hopefully it won’t be her last.

“Black Tears is a very genuine and consistent mare and this result is great for her owners Aidan and Caren Walsh and John Lightfoot, as they have been brilliant supporters of Cullentra House. It is fantastic for them and the whole team here.

“I think Jack Kennedy gave her a great ride. He took the paint off the rail and rode her for a bit of luck. She was beaten just over two lengths in the Coral Cup last year so to get her head in front this is great.

“She had that course form so there was no question about that and she was always going to be staying on having run over slightly further at the meeting last year.

“She showed a great bit of stamina and dug deep and battled hard when she needed to the most. We will get her back and just enjoy today. We will speak to the owners and then decide what to do next.”

Conflated picks up Grade Three honours at Naas

Conflated made the most of having his sights lowered with a wide-margin victory in the Bar One Racing Directors Plate Novice Chase at Naas.

Placed behind the high-class pair of Darver Star and Asterion Forlonge on his first two starts over fences, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding made it third time lucky at Navan in December.

He was no match for star novice Monkfish over three miles at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, but faced with three rivals on his first start since in this Grade Three contest, the seven-year-old was the 4-9 favourite under Jack Kennedy.

The lead changed hands on several occasions during the two-and-a-half-mile journey, but Conflated’s superior class told from the home turn and he passed the post with 21 lengths in hand over Waitnsee.

Winning trainer Denise Foster was enjoying her first success at graded level, having recently taken over the licence at Cullentra House Stables from the suspended Gordon Elliott.

Foster, who landed a treble at Navan on Saturday, said: “It was the perfect race for him and on ratings he was entitled to win. He’ll probably head to Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

“He did it well and was happy bowling along in front. He jumped great and stayed on well.”

On Eagles Wings with Charlie Swan (left), Harry Swan (second right) and Timmy Hyde
On Eagles Wings with Charlie Swan (left), Harry Swan (second right) and Timmy Hyde (Alan Magee/PA)

On Eagles Wings took the other Grade Three on the card, the Bar One Racing ‘Download Our App’ Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle.

The 11-2 chance is trained by Timmy Hyde and was ridden by his grandson Harry Swan – son of the great Charlie Swan.

Charlie Swan said afterwards: “He jumped great and I’d say his jumping won it for him.

“That’s just Harry’s third ride over hurdles, but he’s had a good few rides in hunter chases and point-to-points. He’s had two winners and a second now over hurdles.

“I was roaring a bit, which was probably quite embarrassing when I think of it, but that was great. I can see what my mother went through as you are always a bit nervous, but that was fantastic and he gave him a great ride.”

BHA chief Harrington quells concerns over Foster’s Festival runners

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington is not anticipating any issues for Denise Foster-trained runners at next week’s Cheltenham Festival – although the regulator is still seeking to clarify conditions surrounding the transfer of Gordon Elliott’s string.

Foster, known on the Irish racing circuit as Sneezy, has taken charge of more than 200 horses – having previously trained just 10 winners in the preceding five years.

Elliott is currently banned for six months – with a further six suspended – following an image posted on social media which pictured him sat astride a dead horse.

With the Cheltenham Festival beginning on Tuesday, the BHA was pleased the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handed out a swift punishment but is aware winners for the yard, which has been hugely successful at the meeting in recent years, will inevitably bring with them unwanted headlines.

Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension
Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension (Simon Marper/PA)

“We want the coverage to be about the great stories and the great achievements of the horses – it is the shop window for our sport,” Harrington said, in a zoom call with members of the media.

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“It’s an opportunity for us to really shine and tell the positive stories that are linked to our sport.

“We’re doing everything we can to support everyone to tell those stories. We hope the focus is on the horses.

“We’re not naive, though – we know people will have questions, but what we don’t want to do is detract from all the hard work that goes into preparing horses for the Festival. It would be such a shame for everybody who has worked all year to get those horses ready to not get the airtime that they deserve.”

Should a Foster-trained runner be successful next week – and with the likes of Zanahiyr, Grand Roi and The Bosses Oscar all favourites for their respective races, the likelihood is there will at least be one – then Harrington is well aware of the potential to overshadow the meeting.

“If Denise Foster has winners at the Festivals, the story being around the connections of that horse is what I hope is put forward,” added Harrington.

“We are really pleased that our colleagues in Ireland acted swiftly, so that this wasn’t hanging over us throughout the Festival.

“That’s not as simple as to say ‘let’s draw a line under it and move on’ – but the sanction is in place. Our temporary ban is lifted, because Mr Elliott’s ban is in place, and those horses are free to run for other trainers.

“In terms of any conditions to her licence, that is a matter for the IHRB. But I’m in contact with Denis Egan (chief executive) at the IHRB, understanding what those conditions are for the good reputation of racing in Ireland and Britain.

The Elliott saga was all across the news last week
The Elliott saga was all across the news last week (PA Wire)

“We’re asking what conditions have been put in place. But that is a matter for the Irish – we’re currently seeking clarifications of what conditions are put in place. We’re assuming we’ll know before Cheltenham.

“It will be conditions to the licence rather than the sanction – that is where they will be applied. We’re asking for those but also making it clear what our views are on behalf of JCR (Jockey Club Racecourses) as well.

“We want to make sure that any horses attending are not clearly under the Gordon Elliott flag.

“I’ve made our views on it clear, and we’re waiting to hear what conditions will be applied to Denise. Then we will also be able to look, if we’re not happy, at what is available to us within our own rules.

“At this point we’re having really good discussions, so I’m not envisaging us getting to that point (preventing the horses running).”

Denise Foster off the mark at Wexford with Defi Bleu

Denise Foster saddled her first winner since taking over at Cullentra Stables while Gordon Elliott serves his suspension, when Defi Bleu took the Tomcoole Farm Ltd. Beginners Chase at Wexford.

The eight-year-old, ridden by Jack Kennedy and owned by Gigginstown House Stud, got the better of 8-13 favourite Opposites Attract by two and half lengths.

Defi Bleu (4-1) was Foster’s third runner since she officially took charge at the County Meath yard this week.

Kennedy said: “His first run over fences was very promising. He fell the second day and disappointed after that. It’s lovely to get off the mark over fences with him.

“That’s a great start for Sneezy (Foster) – and long may it continue. Hopefully we will have plenty of luck together now.”

Foster was not in attendance but later added: “It’s great for Jack, the horse and the whole team at Cullentra House.

“It’s a great lift for the whole team, who have been doing such a great job, and I’m just delighted for each and every one of them.”

Elliott, a three-time Grand National-winning trainer, was handed a one-year ban, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media of him sitting on a dead horse.

Monday Musings: Crime and Punishment

Sometime between Monday and Friday last week they got together and decided “Gordon’s not really a bad fella, so let’s not be too hard on him”, writes Tony Stafford. You could discern it in the columns of the Racing Post by his day-to-day journalist pals on the racecourse in Ireland as the original abhorrence to first seeing ‘that photo’ was gradually tempered into the “he isn’t really like that” version of the man.

So, by Friday, when the case was finally heard by the IHRB, everyone was patting himself on the back and saying a year ban, suspended for six months was “fair” and had “compassionate undertones”. By the weekend we heard Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster, 67, who lives down the road and “has known Elliott for many years” was taking over the licence.

Apparently “she’s a legend” and has had ten winners – six Flat and four jumps – over the last five years from her small stable close to Elliott’s Cullentra House yard. If that qualifies her to run a stable which still had the mechanism to continue operations last week, sending out seven winners from 26 runners, including an up-yours four-timer last Monday at Punchestown, is another question.

The enormity of the operation in Co Meath, in the centre of the country, is mind-boggling especially in the context that its boss could often make do with Mrs Thatcher-like amounts of sleep after long sessions of partying and still be ready for the fray at dawn every morning.

It’s time to consider a few numbers. In the latest season, which of course was delayed by the onset of Covid19, Elliott has run 321 individual horses in Ireland. Today at Leopardstown he will send out (remotely I trust) the last six before handing over responsibility to Sneezy, taking his number of runners for the season beyond the 1,000 mark.

They have yielded 155 wins and earned €2.855 million. Over the past five years, 891 Irish wins have brought more than €20 million, only slightly less than the €24 million of his great rival Willie Mullins who this season, from fewer than half the runs, has 139 wins from 183 individual horses. Then there are the training fees on top. Who’ll be getting them?

I was intrigued by the six months suspended part of the IHRB ruling. What would cause its implementation? Would it require a similar offence to be committed in the interim six months? And if there is another similar historical photo in the ether showing him on a different stricken horse would that be the only situation in which the extra six months would take effect?

So let’s be honest. It’s six months from tomorrow taking him to September 8 and, while he does miss Cheltenham, Aintree and the big spring Irish Festival at Punchestown, from that point on, Galway apart, it’s something of a quiet off-season time for the top jumps stables in Ireland.

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When Nicky Henderson got his three-month ban in 2011 that ran from July to October and barely ruffled his feathers in practical terms. While unable to go into the stables during that period, he continued to live in the main house and the horses were paraded on the lawn in front of his lounge picture window each morning. Off from July to October when he never has much going on, he was back in time for the first meetings at Kempton. Do the words ‘carve’ and ‘up’ come to mind either side of the Irish Sea?

Elliott will be in situ during his suspension and, while he voluntarily stated he would neither go to any race meeting or point-to-point fixture during the course of the suspension, no doubt he could still offer advice to the new boss.

We like to think that the concept of a punishment suitable to fit the crime is still valid. But when you consider how easy in modern society it is for an unwise word to be regarded as of an offensive nature and enough to earn a prison sentence, the Elliott picture becomes clouded. For a couple of days, outrage was universal around the world and racing’s always delicate position with its vociferous opponents was perilous.

Penalties in horse racing can be draconian. Look, for example, at the case of Charles Byrnes, an acknowledged touch-merchant whose six-month ban for “inexcusable behaviour” and negligence surrounding the running of Viking Hoard at Tramore In October 2018 was confirmed at an appeal last month.

The horse, a drifter from 4-1 to 8-1 before the race, stopped suddenly with seven furlongs to run. He had been laid heavily on Betfair that day and on two further occasions when Byrnes sent him over to race in the UK.

Each time substantial five-figure bets were placed by a third party on Betfair and no connection to Byrnes has been established. The negligence case on the Tramore run was based on the decision of Byrnes and his son to leave the horse unattended for 20 to 25 minutes when they went for their lunch. It was obviously the “suspicious drift” and the big lay bets that alerted Betfair who routinely share such information with the authorities.

Returning to Mr Elliott, such was the disgust at the photo that on the 6pm BBC news last Monday evening, in the headlines, after the news of Covid and the rest, they turned to sport. The first and only headline item was that picture. I think Elliott was very fortunate that he didn’t get the full year the committee suggested it meted out.

Nicky Henderson’s three-month summer sojourn didn’t harm his career – if anything it had more negatives for his then two assistants Tom Symonds and Ben Pauling when they left to start their own training businesses.

So suggestions that Elliott will be in any way harmed by his own gentle sabbatical are probably over-stating the potential impact. Gigginstown, his biggest supporter, quickly stood firmly behind him and they are no longer recruiting from the point-to-point field, so he’s not missing as much there either.

*

Meanwhile, an inexperienced amateur rider felt the wrath of an Irish stewards’ panel at Leopardstown yesterday. Young Aaron Fahey, riding the newcomer Lake Winnipesaukee in the concluding bumper, was carried to the front of the field by his hard-pulling mount after four furlongs when the saddle slipped.

The horse continued going easily miles clear of the field until turning for home when he took the wrong course, going to the outside of a rail. Fahey, who has ridden three winners from 11 rides this season, told the stewards he was very tired and unable fully to control the horse which his father trains. They ruled him “negligent” and banned him for 14 days.

Clearly, it’s not what you do: it’s who you are.

*

Denise Foster won’t be going to Cheltenham with the Cullentra House horses, but never mind Sneezy, nor am I. Neither will French Aseel, who has had a setback – good job I switched Triumph horses to Tritonic (cough) - but then Sneezy still has some left in that race even after the Cheveley Park contingent jumped ship.

At last count her new stable has 111 total entries at the Festival many with multiple targets. I’m sure while she won’t be there she’ll be checking that Weatherbys have the correct bank details to send her the trainer’s percentages, which must come to a nice few quid.

One race she will have to watch closely is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on the final day. Of the stable’s 34 last-day entries, a dozen are in the race Elliott loves to win in homage to the time he spent at Pond House in his formative years before becoming a trainer.

Another Cheltenham absentee will be Alan Spence who will have no runners at the meeting with On The Blind Side waiting for Aintree. One race he will have in his sights before then, though, is the Dubai World Cup.

Spence part-owned and bred Salute The Soldier, who won four of 14 races when trained by Clive Cox, only once finishing out of the frame. The partners were elated when he was sold at the end of his four-year-old career for 380,000gns after reaching a BHA handicap mark of 104.

Bahraini owner-trainer Fawzi Nass was the buyer and, transferred to his Dubai Carnival stable, the gelding won twice at up to Grade 3 level in his first season there. This time round it has been two wins from three runs for the six-year-old, first a Group 2 and then on Super Saturday last weekend he made all to win Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, his first at Group 1 level.

I tried in vain looking on the Emirates Racing Authority site to see whether there’s a breeder’s prize for the winner. With $12 million to go round there ought to be and I’m sure Alan would have been checking even as his great favourite went over the line on Saturday. If not, he and former co-owning partner Mr Hargreaves might ask Fawzi for a hand-out should the Soldier beat off the American dirt stars on March 27 at Meydan.

Denise Foster looking forward to taking over licence from Gordon Elliott on Monday

Denise Foster has spoken of a “great responsibility” as she prepares to take over the reins at Gordon Elliott’s yard on Monday following the Grand National-winning trainer’s suspension.

Elliott was on Friday banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media last weekend of the trainer sitting on a dead horse.

Like Elliott, Foster, who has sent out 10 winners over the past five seasons, on the Flat and over jumps combined, is based in County Meath.

An initial statement confirming the plans on Elliott’s official Twitter account was posted on Saturday afternoon, before being deleted and reposted to read: “Gordon Elliott Racing is pleased to confirm that Denise Foster will take over the licence at Cullentra Stables during the period of Gordon Elliott’s suspension.

“Denise is vastly experienced and her appointment is great news for staff and owners.”

Gordon Elliott has enjoyed great success at the Cheltenham Festival
Gordon Elliott has enjoyed great success at the Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)
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A further statement said it hoped “the current level of employment provided at our stables will continue”, adding that all entries will be made by Foster and that she will be responsible for all operations.

An experienced horsewoman who has trained racehorses since 1998 when she took over from her husband, David Foster, a three-time Olympian, following his death in a riding accident, Foster will move her existing string from Enfield – around eight kilometres away – to Cullentra for the duration.

Foster enjoyed Listed success with Lily’s Rainbow in the 2016 Heritage Stakes at Navan and counts JP McManus as one of her owners.

She said: “I am honoured to take over from Gordon and realise he is a hard act to follow. I am delighted by the contacts I have had with the owners and staff to date. This a great responsibility but I could not ask for a better set up.

“I will take charge from Monday.”

Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott
Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott (PA)

Having already imposed an interim suspension on Elliott-trained runners in Britain until the conclusion of the IHRB’s investigation, the British Horseracing Authority immediately confirmed it would reciprocate the ban.

However, the BHA added that Elliott’s horses would be allowed to run at Cheltenham and Aintree if “transferred directly to other licenced trainers prior to March 9.”

A spokesperson for the IHRB said on Saturday: “Anyone that would want to take over the care of horses on a different premises would need to be a licensed trainer.

“If a licensed trainer wanted to move from their own premises to a different premises, they would need to go to the licensing committee.

“That would not generally be a lengthy process.”

On Tuesday, leading owners Cheveley Park Stud moved their horses from Elliott to Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead. Among those was the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who has joined De Bromhead.