Percy Warner prevails in Fairyhouse feature

Gordon Elliott was on course for only the second time since testing positive for coronavirus to witness Percy Warner claim a dramatic victory in the feature event at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.

The Cullentra handler was unable to travel to either Leopardstown or Limerick over the Christmas period as he had to undergo a period of isolation after contracting Covid-19.

He returned to the racecourse at Fairyhouse on January 3 and was back at the Ratoath venue for the track’s latest fixture.

Elliott said: “I don’t know how I got it (coronavirus). Everyone in the yard was tested and everybody (else) was negative.

“I’ve done my isolation. I had a couple of rough days – it was like having bad flu. I had no energy at all, but I’m fine now, thank God.”

With Never Do Nothing and, more notably, the prolific Dreal Deal taken out, Percy Warner was one of just three runners who went to post for the Fairyhouse Racing From Home Webpage Hurdle.

Following an impressive chase victory at the track last month, Jessica Harrington’s Sizing Pottsie was the 4-9 favourite – and everything appeared to be going to script for much of the two-mile contest.

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The market leader was weary, but held a long lead on the run to the final flight, when he took a tired fall under Paddy Kennedy.

His exit left Percy Warner (11-4) and the Willie Mullins-trained Low Sun to fight it out and it was the former who clung on by half a length in the hands of Jack Kennedy following a ding-dong battle on the run-in.

“We were probably a lucky winner with the horse falling. I wasn’t even watching the leader jumping the last, I was watching the other two,” Elliott added.

“Jack said the leader was tying up very quickly going to the last. He said our horse probably needed more runners around him and a more competitive race. He was left in no man’s land on his own. He’s only had one run on the track.

“He’s a grand horse. He was bought to be a chaser and that’s what he’s going to be. This was a nice race to win.”

Duc D’Allier had earlier made a successful return from 949 days off the track in the Fairyhouse Supporting Local Business Beginners Chase.

Joseph O’Brien’s 9-2 chance had not been seen in competitive action since winning a maiden hurdle at Clonmel in the summer of 2018 when trained by Henry de Bromhead, but proved he retains plenty of ability with an eight-and-a-half-length success under JJ Slevin.

O’Brien’s assistant, Brendan Powell, said: “It was a good performance. He does everything right at home.

“He was in last year and was nearly ready to run when the ground went quick. He’s a big horse and obviously had a few problems as it’s June 2018 since he last ran.

“He’s always jumped well and galloped well. It probably wasn’t the greatest race in the world, but he can’t do it any better than that.”

O’Brien and Slevin doubled up with Fun Light (11-4) in the Fairyhouse Racecourse Maiden Hurdle.

Charles Byrnes and Kevin Brouder combined to land the Bar One Racing Supporting Irish Injured Jockeys Maiden Hurdle, with 2-5 favourite Light Brigade getting the better of Purdey’s Gift by just half a length.

“It was a good opportunity as he was getting 8lb and he likes the ground,” said Byrnes.

“He had things in his favour today as he was well-in. He made heavy enough work of it, but he won anyway.

“It’s great to get the win out of him. He’ll probably go handicapping now.”

Trainer John McConnell was fined 3,000 euros, jockey Conor Walsh banned for 21 days and Tango Theatre suspended from running for 60 days after her fourth place in that race.

The stewards inquired into her effort and found the six-year-old had not obtained the best possible placing.

Injured Kennedy misses Monday rides at Leopardstown

Jack Kennedy was forced to sit out high-profile rides at Leopardstown on Monday after being stood down.

The rider was due to partner Delta Work in the feature Savills Chase on day three of the Christmas meeting at the Dublin track, with Fury Road another leading hope for him in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle.

The jockey suffered a fall at Leopardstown on Sunday, before going on to partner three more horses, but missed the early part of Monday’s card while he had his collarbone X-rayed.

Kennedy was initially given the all-clear to partner Delta Work, but the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board later announced the rider would not be permitted to ride at all on Monday.

It tweeted: “Following advice from IHRB orthopaedic consultant Dr Kenny, Jack Kennedy has been stood down for the day at @LeopardstownRC and will be reassessed tomorrow.”

Kennedy has five rides booked at Leopardstown on Tuesday, including Conflated in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase and Abacadabras in the Matheson Hurdle.

Zanahiyr puts down Triumph marker at Leopardstown

Zanahiyr took his unbeaten jumping record to three when landing Grade Two honours in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, with trainer Gordon Elliott absent after testing positive for coronavirus.

A maiden winner on the Flat when with Michael Halford, the son of Nathaniel has done little wrong over the smaller obstacles since joining Elliott and boosted his claims for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham with an authoritative success.

Carrying a 3lb penalty for a Grade Three victory at Fairyhouse, the 1-2 favourite justified his prohibitive odds in the manner his supporters would have hoped.

Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Druid’s Altar and Busselton made the early running and while the former started to weaken, Busselton made a brave effort to go with Zanahiyr, who had made smooth progress under Jack Kennedy to come into contention and ultimately swept the O’Brien newcomer aside to score by three and three-quarter lengths.

Zanahiyr and Jack Kennedy at Leopardstown
Zanahiyr and Jack Kennedy at Leopardstown (Gary Carson/PA)

“That was a great performance,” said Kennedy.

“It was a complete opposite sort of race than the last day. We went very steady and he still won, so it just shows that he can do it any way.

“He only did what he had to. Quilixios (unbeaten stablemate) is very good as well, but I think he might edge him.”

Zanahiyr was cut to 100-30 favourite from 4-1 for the Triumph by Betfair.

The victory completed a quick double for Elliott and Kennedy after Wide Receiver’s win in the preceding race.

Gordon Elliott has tested positive for coronavirus
Gordon Elliott has tested positive for coronavirus (Simon Cooper/PA)

Elliott revealed he was self isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

In a statement read out by Brian Gleeson on RTE Racing, Elliott said: “As part of the recommended return from travel Day 5 test, I have tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s come as a big surprise as I’ve been asymptomatic, and I will now continue to self-isolate for a further 10 days.

“Since the test result has come back, we have had all the staff here at Cullentra tested, and thankfully all tests have come back negative.”

Ballyadam steps up again in Royal Bond

Ballyadam maintained his unbeaten record over obstacles in a fascinating renewal of the BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Sent off the 8-15 favourite having won by a wide margin on his hurdling debut, Ballyadam faced much sterner opposition in this Grade One.

The field was tightly grouped throughout as Dewcup and The Very Man set only a steady pace, with N’golo and Gordon Elliott’s Ballyadam just behind in third and fourth.

When the pace quickened turning into the straight Jack Kennedy gave Ballyadam an inch of rein, and he quickened up smartly, but Cask Mate was making ground from the rear.

Ballyadam got in tight to the last as Cask Mate landed running and closed to within a length, but the favourite still had plenty left to go away again at the finish and win by a length and a half – with N’golo running on again into third.

Betfair make the winner their 13-2 favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.

Elliott said: “You couldn’t ask for more.

“Jack said he was a bit novicey – but it was only his second run over hurdles, so we can take plenty of positives out of it.

“Jack said it was just hands and heels after the last – he just gave him one little flick. He said there was plenty of horse left but he’s still a baby, plenty of learning to do.

“I was hoping he’d win, but it’s never that straightforward.

“I’d imagine he’ll go to Leopardstown (at Christmas) now. He’s a tough horse who stays as well. He relaxes now – he was very keen in his bumpers.”

Kennedy said: “I was delighted with him. He made a couple of mistakes but recovered from them well, so he’ll have learned plenty from today.

“It was steadily run, and we ended up sprinting down to the second last. My lad has plenty of gears and he kept going well in front. I was always happy that he was doing enough, so I didn’t knock him around.”

Felix Desjy maintains unbeaten chasing record

Felix Desjy took his unbeaten fencing record to two with a hard-fought success in the Mongey Communications Novice Chase at Punchestown.

A facile winner on his first run over the bigger obstacles at Killarney, Gordon Elliott’s charge faced a much stiffer test in this Grade Two heat.

However, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding stepped up to the plate in determined fashion after making some of the early running.

Sizing Pottsie set sail for home from the fourth-last fence and had his rivals at full stretch, with Felix Desjy coming out of the pack two out.

Leading on the run-in, Felix Desjy (13-8) pulled away to score by a length and three-quarters in the hands of Jack Kennedy.

Felix Desjy in the winner's enclosure after his Grade Two novice chase success
Felix Desjy in the winner’s enclosure after his Grade Two novice chase success (Gary Carson/PA)

Last season’s Champion Hurdle third Darver Star, the 11-10 favourite, was eight lengths back in third, never being able to get into a challenging position.

Kennedy said: “He’s gone very relaxed now which is great because if something comes to take him on he’s not tearing away with you, that’s a great help.

“He put in a great round of jumping and I was delighted with him. He’s deadly over a fence.

“I thought Sizing Pottsie might have got away from me a little bit, but my lad loves that ground and he stays galloping.”

Felix Desjy was cut to 16-1 from 20-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham with Paddy Power and Betfair.

Gavin Cromwell will forward to another day with Darver Star on better ground.

He said: “He’s fine. We’ve always known that he likes a bit of nicer ground. That soft ground made him look slow, I don’t know if he just wasn’t enjoying it.

“On the whole he jumped well enough. Obviously you’d like to be winning there today, but he didn’t run shocking and went to the line well enough.

“We’ll probably look at something over Christmas and he definitely wants a bit of nicer ground. We won’t panic yet.”

Envoi Allen extends unbeaten run with easy win on chasing bow

Envoi Allen predictably outclassed his rivals as he made a foot-perfect start to his career over fences at Down Royal.

Bought for £400,000 by Cheveley Park Stud, Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten six-year-old has so far lived up to his hefty price tag, with his eight previous wins under Rules including a pair of Cheltenham Festival triumphs in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Faced with just four rivals in the Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase – a race his trainer had won with the top-class pair of Delta Work and Samcro in the last two years – Envoi Allen was a prohibitively priced 1-14 favourite under Jack Kennedy.

After initially bouncing out in front when the tapes went up, Envoi Allen was then given a lead by rank outsider Soi Cowboy for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over again racing down the back straight.

Jumping accurately throughout, the six-year-old stamped his authority on the race from the home turn – safely negotiating the final two obstacles and quickening up smartly under hand driving to score by six lengths from January Jets.

Paddy Power trimmed his odds from 5-2 to 9-4 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next March, while Coral offer just 2-1.

Elliott said: “Brilliant! You loved the way he switched off and went by them, you just love his attitude. You couldn’t be happier.

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“Jack (Kennedy) said he popped away and he quickened after the second-last. That’s what he was bought for, he’s a chaser and it’s nice to get that out of the way.

“He was good and coming out of Colin Bowe’s (where he won his point-to-point). he had plenty of work done (over fences).

“I imagine, all being well, he will go for the Drinmore at Fairyhouse.”

Farouk D'Alene on his way to victory at Down Royal
Farouk D’Alene on his way to victory at Down Royal (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott’s Farouk D’alene had earlier maintained his unbeaten record in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Hurdle.

The dual bumper winner was a 2-9 favourite to make a winning hurdling debut in a race his trainer had won four times in the last five years and came home eight lengths clear under Kennedy.

Elliott said: “He’s a big chaser – that’s what he has been bought to be. He’s a staying horse and you could hear him just have a blow after the last.

“He has never shown anything at home, but when you go to the track he is better. I’d say he couldn’t have the ground soft enough.”

The Cullentra handler completed a treble on the card with the Jamie Codd-ridden Chemical Energy (10-11 favourite) in the concluding bumper.

Skyace was a shock 66-1 winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.

Bought for the bargain basement price of £600 by trainer Shark Hanlon, after being placed in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the five-year-old won her first two starts for her new connections, but had struggled since.

She faced a huge step up in class for this Grade Three contest, but finished with a flourish under Jody McGarvey to get up and beat Elliott’s 6-5 favourite Queens Brook by a head.

Hanlon was not present due to being in isolation following a recent trip to the sales in Britain.

Speaking from his yard in County Carlow, the trainer said: “There were a couple of good mares in the race, but I honestly thought she’d finish in the first three.

“It’s topped off the year for me as it’s our 16th winner since the restart and I think we’ve had 20 seconds. I think we’ve only run around 30 horses, so it’s been unbelievable.

“We’ve no real plans for this mare, but she’s entitled to go for some of those Graded mares’ races now. I’d love to give her a break and bring her back for Punchestown. The boys are talking about Cheltenham, but whether she’s good enough, I don’t know.

“The owners are from Wexford, but they’re actually in Dubai. I’ve just spoken to them on the phone and I’d say there’ll be plenty of celebrating going on tonight over there!

“She’s a very good mare and I’m lucky to have her.”

Skyace lunged late to claim Grade Three honours
Skyace lunged late to claim Grade Three honours (Brian Lawless/PA)

Reflecting on her cheap purchase, Hanlon added: “I went over to the sales and the boys that own her told me they wanted a horse. I rang them and said there was a filly there who had been placed twice behind another good mare of mine, Dime A Dozen.

“They asked me how much I thought she’d make and I said she’d make around £15,000! They told me not to come home without her and we bought her for £600.

“She has never had a lame step with me since she landed here.”

Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy on sidelines with injury

Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy will both be sidelined for “a number of weeks” after suffering injury at Limerick on Sunday.

Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning jockey Russell was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays on a suspected shoulder injury after a heavy fall from Doctor Duffy at the first fence in the Munster National.

However, his injuries turned out to be more severe.

Kennedy, who only recently returned from a broken leg suffered at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February, fell three flights from home when partnering Etincelle Lioterie in the opening Listed novice hurdle.

An update from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s senior medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh posted on Twitter read: “Davy Russell sustained a neck injury and has a fracture of his C6 vertebrae. Jack Kennedy fractured his left collarbone.

“Unfortunately they will both be out for a number of weeks.”

Both riders are used regularly by Gordon Elliott, who hopes Kennedy could return to action in time to ride at Down Royal’s high-profile two-day meeting at the end of the month.

“Davy is having an operation tomorrow (Tuesday),” the trainer said.

“Jack has got a hairline fracture of an old fracture and he has to go back to the doctor on Tuesday week.

“We’ll know then where we are and we’ll be pushing to try to get him back for Down Royal.”

Felix Desjy delights Elliott and Kennedy on fencing debut

Felix Desjy made a winning start to his fencing career with victory in the Avenue Hotel Beginners Chase at Killarney on Monday.

Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old was a Grade One winner over hurdles at Aintree in 2019, but was off the track for 430 days following a run at Punchestown afterwards.

He reappeared with a win on the Flat at Navan in July, but fell at the second flight when favourite for the Galway Hurdle before Elliott switched his attentions to the bigger obstacles.

Sent off the 1-5 favourite, his task was made easier when his main rival Raya Time was an early casualty.

Espion Du Chenet kept him company for some of the contest, but was a spent force in the straight as Jack Kennedy allowed his mount to coast home and win by 31 lengths from Port Rashid without a too much of a scare.

Kennedy said: “All he had to do was jump round really and he put in a brilliant round of jumping. He was a little bit long at the last down the back, but other than that he was brilliant.

“He is unbelievable over a fence so he’ll be exciting going back into better races again.”

Elliott, by telephone, added: “That was great and I’m delighted with him.

“There is a graded race next week, but that will come too soon and he will probably be aimed at the Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown in November.”