Tag Archive for: Fil Dor

Bonus offered in hope of securing Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle clash

Connections of Constitution Hill have been given an added incentive to take on Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival.

Henry de Bromhead’s supermare has won 15 times from 15 starts, retaining her Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival under Rachael Blackmore.

Earlier on the same Tuesday card at the Festival it was Constitution Hill in the spotlight, as the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding lit up Prestbury Park with a staggering 22-length triumph in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The two horses could yet cross paths in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, a race Honeysuckle won by two and a quarter lengths last season and given a boost with the sponsors offering a bonus of £100,000 should a British-trained horse take the trophy back across the Irish Sea.

Rachael Blackmore celebrating after Champion Hurdle success aboard Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore celebrating after Champion Hurdle success aboard Honeysuckle (David Davies/PA)

Conor O’Neill, Punchestown’s CEO said: “When Paddy Power came on board as Punchestown Champion Hurdle sponsors they committed to clear objectives.

“The race should be as competitive as possible, increase field sizes, attract the very best horses from both sides of the Irish Sea and then tell people about it to create anticipation and excitement for the overall promotion of the sport.

“Now in the second year of the sponsorship they have certainly backed this up with a €300,000 prize fund and bonus incentive. The first Paddy Power Champion Hurdle was behind closed doors so we really look forward to working with the team as we welcome crowds back to famous festival Friday at Punchestown.”

Constitution Hill winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Constitution Hill winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

While the bonus is intended to lure British horse across to the meeting, the 10-strong field of current entries has no shortage of Irish-trained runners and Gordon Elliott could be responsible for two of them.

Both Teahupoo and Zanahiyr are in the mix, with the former disappointing when last in the Champion Hurdle and the latter going well when falling in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Elsewhere at the meeting Elliott has made entries for Aintree winner Three Stripe Life, who took the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and could head next to the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

Minella Crooner, who missed the Cheltenham Festival with a minor setback, is entered for the same race and is also engaged in the three-mile Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

Three Stripe Life winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Three Stripe Life winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’ve made entries for all the Grade One races at Punchestown and we will be well represented throughout the week,” said Elliott.

“It’s our season-ending Festival in Ireland and a fantastic five days. We’ve had a bit of luck there in the past and hopefully we can finish the season off with a high.

“It’s where my owners want to have runners and it’s where I want to have runners.

“We had two winners at Cheltenham and two Grade One winners at Aintree and the horses have been running well. We haven’t always had the best of luck in the last few weeks, but a lot of the horses that weren’t winning were hitting the crossbar and finishing second so it was brilliant to have the couple of big winners at Aintree and see Delta Work and Escaria Ten run so well in the National itself.

Gordon Elliott has plenty to look forward to at Punchestown
Gordon Elliott has plenty to look forward to at Punchestown (Mike Egerton/PA0

“We’ve had some great days at Punchestown. It’s a brilliant place and they’ve a great team there on the track and behind the scenes and they provide beautiful ground which is so important at this time of year.

“Three Stripe Life was brilliant at Aintree and will go over fences next season so he might take in Punchestown but again, he’ll tell us over the next few days. He’s a horse to really look forward to next season.

“Minella Crooner has options of the Alanna Homes and the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdles.

“It was disappointing that he picked up a setback just before Cheltenham but it was very minor.

“We were just forced to miss a few days with him at the wrong time, but he’ll go to Punchestown fresh now and I’ve been happy with him in the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to getting him back out.”

Fil Dor (left) at Down Royal
Fil Dor (left) at Down Royal (Niall Carson/PA)

Mighty Potter was pulled up in the Supreme at Cheltenham and aims to bounce back in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle, with Fil Dor entered in the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle for the same owners after his second-placed run behind Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle.

“Mighty Potter didn’t run his race at Cheltenham but has come home well and he’ll definitely go to Punchestown and I’d love to have a big winner there for his owners, Andrew and Gemma Brown,” said Elliott.

“We also have Fil Dor for them as well and he’ll go for the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle on the Saturday.

“He has to try turn the tables with Vauban, who beat him at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival, but we’ll give it a go. Punchestown is a different type of test and if he can run his race we’d be delighted.”

Pied Piper and Fil Dor in top form for Vauban showdown

Fil Dor and Pied Piper give trainer Gordon Elliott a formidable hand in his bid for a third victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

It is eight years since the Cullentra handler first landed the juvenile championship with the great Tiger Roll and he doubled his tally with Farclas in 2018.

This year’s two challengers both carry Andrew and Gemma Brown’s Caldwell Construction colours – and both line up with strong claims.

Joey Logan, racing manager to the owners, said: “It’s very exciting to have the two of them running in the Triumph Hurdle, obviously.”

Pied Piper was bred by the Queen and initially trained on the Flat by John Gosden before changing hands in the autumn.

On his hurdling debut at Punchestown, he narrowly defeated the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban before registering a runaway victory in a Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham in late January.

Fil Dor has also locked horns with Vauban already, with the Mullins runner ending his three-race winning streak at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The trio will again do battle in Friday’s opener and Logan has high hopes for the Caldwell pair.

Fil Dor at Leopardstown
Fil Dor at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

“Willie is talking up his horse a lot, which you have to respect, but I think the course on Friday is going to suit Fil Dor fantastically well,” he added.

“He worked in Leopardstown last week and worked very well under Davy (Russell).

“Pied Piper has won over the course and distance and also seems in great nick, so it’s hard to split them to be honest.

“Everyone is saying Willie’s horse has improved, but I know for a fact Pied Piper has improved phenomenally since that run (when he beat Vauban).

“I think it’s going to be a very good race and I’m expecting a big run from both of our horses.”

Vauban won twice on the Flat in France before joining Mullins’ stable last year.

He was odds-on for his Irish debut when touched off by Pied Piper, but readily accounted for Fil Dor in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

“He did everything right the last day. He jumps well and everything has gone well since, so he’s going to be a major player,” Mullins said.

“He obviously met a good one the first day.”

The Closutton handler also saddles Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps, both of whom finished behind Vauban at Leopardstown in early February, although Icare Allen has won since.

Knight Salute (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham
Knight Salute (right) on his way to victory at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Among the leading hopes for the home team is the Milton Harris-trained Knight Salute, who is five from five since being sent hurdling, including a Cheltenham victory in November.

Harris said: “He’s in a good place and worked well last Saturday, so we’re looking forward to it.

“The Irish are either too good for us or they’re not as good as they think they are. There doesn’t seem to be much between them, so we’ll see.

“Our horse is very adaptable and if he goes there, he goes there as a contender. Win, lose or draw he’s had a great season, but this would obviously be the icing on the cake.

“We’re under no illusions, it’s not going to be easy, but I don’t think he’ll make it easy for the others either.

But he cautioned: “We will keep our eye on the ground, though, after Wednesday’s rain. I am of the view that he is a better horse on better ground.

“We will have a chat with the owner after racing on Thursday. The ground could end up being quite sticky if it starts to dry up.”

Dan Skelton’s Doctor Parnassus, another ex-Flat performer, has won by 10 lengths at Ascot and nine at Taunton since being sent hurdling.

“He’s a half-brother to Metier and we all know what he’s done over hurdles,” said Skelton.

“This horse won at Ascot and we then ran him over two miles and three (furlongs) at Taunton deliberately, as you can’t be frightened of stamina if you’re going to run in a Triumph Hurdle.

“I was stood down at the last that day and I was amazed by how well he picked up and powered through the line.

“He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s a grafter and I think you need a grafter for a Triumph.”

Gary Moore runs the high-class Grade One winner Porticello and the maiden Teddy Blue, who was runner-up to Knight Salute in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton three weeks ago.

Fil Dor seeking to continue golden run with Spring success

Fil Dor puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the Racing TV-sponsored Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The French recruit has been hugely impressive in winning each of his three starts for Gordon Elliott – most recently dominating his rivals in a Grade Two over this course and distance in December.

The grey – who carries Andrew and Gemma Brown’s Caldwell Construction colours – will be well fancied to add to his tally on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival under Davy Russell.

Joey Logan, racing manager for the owners, said: “He’s unbeaten at the moment and we’re really looking forward to him running. He did a nice bit of work the other day and he’s in very good nick.”

Last week Fil Dor’s stablemate Pied Piper threw his hat into the ring as a potential Triumph Hurdle contender with a stunning display at Cheltenham for the same owners.

The biggest threat to Fil Dor this weekend appears to be the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban, who was narrowly beaten by Pied Piper in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” Logan added.

“In fairness to Fil Dor, his form is very solid. We knew Pied Piper would improve for his first run, which he did, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Willie’s horse runs on Saturday.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Willie’s horse, but I think Fil Dor is the one to beat.”

Icare Allen (left) won at Leopardstown in December
Icare Allen (left) won at Leopardstown in December (Niall Carson/PA)

Fil Dor is one of two runners for Elliott along with Punchestown scorer The Tide Turns, while Vauban leads a four-pronged Mullins squad which also includes Icare Allen, Vadaly and Il Etait Temps.

Noel Meade’s Ben Siegel, another debut winner over hurdles at Punchestown, also features.

The first of four Grade Ones on the card is the Nathaniel Lacy And Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle, in which Elliott and Mullins are again well represented.

Elliott’s Hollow Games is the likely favourite after finishing third behind stable companion Ginto in a Grade One at Naas last month, with Minella Crooner an interesting second string.

Elliott said: “I thought Hollow Games was a bit unlucky in Naas – he wouldn’t have won, but I thought he should have been a good second. He just didn’t get the run of the race.

“Minella Crooner is a horse that doesn’t show anything at home, but does his best work on the track.”

Mullins runs the fifth from the same Naas race in Whatdeawant, as well as Bronn and Minella Cocooner.

Henry de Bromhead’s Naas runner-up Grand Jury and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Limerick Grade Two victor Eric Bloodaxe also merit consideration in a competitive affair.

Mullins appears to hold the ace hand in the Irish Arkle, with Blue Lord (Paul Townend), Haut En Couleurs (Bryan Cooper) and Saint Sam (Rachael Blackmore) part of a six-strong field.

Blue Lord has been impressive over fences to date
Blue Lord has been impressive over fences to date (Donall Farmer/PA(

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “It was a tough decision for Paul but I know he thinks a lot of Blue Lord. He rode him ahead of Echoes In Rain over hurdles last year which raised a few eyebrows at the time.

“He’s a horse that has improved for jumping fences and he settles much better over them. His last run was hugely impressive.

“The other two are both only five. Haut En Couleurs is relatively unexposed because he only made his debut for us in the Triumph Hurdle when he ran huge. He was too keen afterwards at Punchestown. He was a win at the track which should help.

“Saint Sam you might not have thought of as a chaser as he’s quite small but when we schooled all the novices early in the season he was one that really caught the eye the first day, he loves it so he looks like one who will make a much better chaser than hurdler.”

Taking on the Closutton trio are O’Brien’s pair of Busselton and Embittered and Elliott’s Riviere D’etel, who chased home the currently sidelined Mullins star Ferny Hollow here in December.

It might not be a Grade One, but it could be argued that the most interesting race of the afternoon is the concluding Goffs Future Stars INH Flat Race.

Facile Vega, a son of the great racemare Quevega, heads the market following a cosy debut success for the Mullins team over the Christmas period. He is joined by stablemate Embassy Gardens.

Patrick Mullins said: “It’s worth more than the champion bumper at Cheltenham so it’s always very competitive.

“Facile Vega certainly looks the part and he was explosive on his debut.

“He’ll have to be as good as he looked on debut as Paul Nolan (Sandor Clegane), Peter Fahey (The Big Doyen) and Gordon Elliott (Itswhatunitesus) all run exciting horses but our fellow has a win at the track and that might be a big help.”

The Big Doyen in the clear at Punchestown
The Big Doyen in the clear at Punchestown (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Peter Fahey has high hopes for The Big Doyen, who is two from two after following up a September win at Roscommon with a 15-length verdict at Punchestown.

Fahey said: “He has been working well. He has had a nice break between races, which has helped him, so while it looks a very competitive race, it will kind of let us know where we stand before we head over to Cheltenham.”

The Paul Nolan-trained Sandor Clegane is another stepping up in class after a wide-margin introductory success at Punchestown.

“The plan is to run as long as we’re happy with the ground. He’s our only entry at the whole Festival and we just want to make sure the ground is on the slow side,” said Nolan.

“The horse seems in good shape and we’ll just have to see what the ground is like on the day.

“It’s obviously a strong race. I’d love it if the ground was more testing to take others out of their comfort zone as I know our fella would love it that way, but that’s the way it is.”

Fil Dor digs deep to take Grade Three honours at Fairyhouse

Fil Dor justified his position as the early market leader for the Triumph Hurdle when maintaining his unbeaten record in the Bar One Racing Price Boost Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse, but he was made to pull out all the stops by Lunar Power.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, Fil Dor was made favourite for the Triumph following a very impressive debut at Down Royal, but he faced a different calibre of opposition in this Grade Three.

Nevertheless, he was still sent off the 4-7 favourite and Davy Russell appeared to have things under control for most of the race.

However, Noel Meade’s Lunar Power, a winner on his second hurdles outing at Punchestown and experienced from the Flat, was quickening all the time too.

The pair pulled 11 lengths clear, but Fil Dor was going away at the line and won by a length and a quarter.

Coral cut the winner to 9-2 from 6-1 for the Triumph Hurdle.

“Davy said he was just professional and was asleep the whole way. He gave him one dig and he did what he had to do,” said Elliott.

“A bit of softer ground would suit him better, but it was a nice performance and he did it well. Lunar Power brought him a little left so he needed the good jump at the last.

“We will look at Leopardstown over Christmas but ground will be a thing, so we will put him in at Chepstow (Finale Hurdle) as well.”

The opening Bar One Racing Sign Up Bet 10 Get 50 Irish EBF Mares Handicap Chase went to all-the-way winner Alohamora.

Alohamora jumped well out in front
Alohamora jumped well out in front (Niall Carson/PA)

Given a positive ride by Gavin Brouder, the James Nash-trained seven-year-old registered her first win since January 2020.

A 66-1 chance when well beaten at Cheltenham earlier this month, she was a well backed 3-1 shot on this occasion.

“It was a brilliant performance from man and horse and Gavin gave her a great ride as usual,” said Nash.

“She has only had four runs over fences and got an awful fall at Catterick and it knocked the stuffing out of her. We ran her afterwards at Limerick and she pulled herself up and wouldn’t take part, so I didn’t know until she got down over the first couple today.

“The owners are from the UK and the first time I got to meet them was a couple of weeks ago in Cheltenham, even though they have had her 18 months.

“Everyone was happy with her in Cheltenham, but I was a bit disappointed and thought she was a little better than she ran. She bounced out of the race and we were taking a bit of a chance running here, but the race cut up and I’m sure everyone was expecting it to be stronger.

“At the declaration stage, with Gavin claiming 7lb, I thought she had a small chance and she put it all together today.”

Denis O’Regan and Smoking Gun at Fairyhouse
Denis O’Regan and Smoking Gun at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

Denis O’Regan made it a double on the day for both himself and Elliott when getting Smoking Gun home by three lengths in the Baroneracing.com Porterstown Handicap Chase.

The rider had earlier bagged the Grade One Drinmore Novices Chase on Beacon Edge and his mount in this contest stayed on well after the last at odds of 10-1.

Elliott said: “We thought he might run a nice race in the Troytown last week, but he fell at the first and Denis gave him a brilliant ride.

“He was in a dispersal sale out of Gigginstown, and we bought him for these type of races and to have a runner in Cheltenham and all these places. The Irish Grand National would be the aim and he could go for the Kim Muir (at Cheltenham) too.

“I’m delighted for David (Barnard) and a very good friend of mine Mark Madden, who used to ride, owns a leg of him so it is great for them.”

Gua Du Large (left) was a second winner on the day for Rachael Blackmore
Gua Du Large (left) was a second winner on the day for Rachael Blackmore (Niall Carson/PA)

Honeysuckle won a third Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore and the team made it a double in the following Baroneracing.com Handicap Hurdle as 25-1 shot Gua Du Large fended off Glan by a neck.

De Bromhead said: “He was really disappointing in Down Royal – it was really heavy and I think he struggled on the ground. We didn’t really know what happened to be honest and he couldn’t even finish.

“We put a tongue-tie on him today and that might have made a huge difference but I’d say ground and it being his first run, caught him out the last day.

“We said we’d have another go here and he got all the breaks and everything went right for him. It is great for Robcour (owners) and it was an amazing ride. It has been an incredible half an hour.”

The closing Bar One Racing Giving Cash Back Daily (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race produced a thrilling finish with Royal Romeo (7-2) and Kilbunny Pontic (14-1) sharing the honours with a dead heat under Pat Taaffe and Harry Swan respectively.