Tag Archive for: Jonathan Sweeney

Churchstonewarrior primed for Cheltenham test

Churchstonewarrior will head into the unknown when he runs in the Wellchild National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

The lightly-raced eight-year-old, who has had just four starts over fences, was runner-up to Gaillard Du Mesnil in a three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas before going one better in the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last month.

Jonathan Sweeney’s stable star is poised to take on the Willie Mullins-trained Gaillard Du Mesnil once more at the Festival, with connections hoping to find improvement over three miles and six furlongs after being beaten seven and a half lengths in their last meeting.

“I was very happy with his last run, couldn’t be happier. I’m looking forward to going now,” said Sweeney.

“The form of his race at Navan looks good. Three-mile-six is an unknown, but you’d imagine he’s the type of a horse who will handle that sort of distance.

“He jumped a little right on occasion last time, but I don’t think that will be an issue.”

Though his last run was his sole success over fences to date, Churchstonewarrior has not yet finished outside the first two and is a general 6-1 chance to claim Festival glory, with amateur rider James Hannon taking over in the saddle from Aidan Coleman.

“You would just be hoping the ground was safe. I’d have thought there would be a better chance (of softer ground) on the first day,” Sweeney added.

“You would not be confident – not at Cheltenham – you’d be just hoping for things to go right and that he’ll run his race.”

Churchstonewarrior also holds an entry in the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 10.

Sweeney said: “He is entered in the Irish National but we will take it one day at a time. If we get to Cheltenham, we’ll have to see how things go and how we come out of it.”

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Churchstonewarrior battles for Ten Up triumph

Churchstonewarrior secured a deserved first victory over fences with a determined display in the William Hill Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan.

Jonathan Sweeney’s stable star has a bumper success and two wins over hurdles to his credit, but had to make do with the runner-up spot in his first three chase starts – most recently coming home behind Gaillard Du Mesnil in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Easing in class for this three-mile Grade Two, Churchstonewarrior was a 9-4 chance in the hands of Aidan Coleman, with John McConnell’s recent course-and-distance winner Mahler Mission the 5-4 favourite.

In the end it came down to a fight between the front two in the market, with Churchstonewarrior digging deep to get the better of Mahler Mission by three-quarters of a length.

Flanking Maneuver travelled strongly for a long way on his first competitive appearance in over two years and connections will undoubtedly be delighted with his performance in finishing a close-up third.

“That’s great, he was good. Aidan was very happy with him and said he jumped well,” Sweeney of the winner.

Churchstonewarrior with connections at Navan
Churchstonewarrior with connections at Navan (Gary Carson/PA)

“I’ll talk to the lads now and see, but he’s in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. We’ll get over today and see how he is tomorrow.

“He’s developing away and improving all the time. I’d imagine he could be a National horse in time.

“I’m delighted for the owners, they are a great bunch of lads. They were getting a fair bit of money for him last year. He was vetted and was going, Tom (Hegarty) rang me one evening and asked what I thought and I said ‘I’d have to sell him if he was mine’ but they kept him anyway, which was great.”

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Sweeney considering the possibilities for Churchstonewarrior

Jonathan Sweeney could send Churchstonewarrior to the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham following his creditable runner-up in Grade One company over Christmas.

The lightly-raced eight-year-old has had just three starts over fences and he has been placed second on each occasion.

Upped to three miles at Leopardstown in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, Aidan Coleman’s mount jumped well throughout, although was no match for the winner, the Willie Mullins-trained Gaillard Du Mesnil, who scored by seven and a half lengths and now heads the market for the National Hunt Chase on March 14.

Sweeney said: “We were very happy with the run – he ran well. You couldn’t say he isn’t a Grade One horse. The winner has had an awful lot of experience.

“I suppose we had a lot of luck on the day, but that’s racing.”

There are no firm plans for the son of Mahler, although a possible return to Leopardstown for the Ladbrokes Novice Chase on February 5 is under consideration by the County Cork handler.

“He might go back to Leopardstown for the Dublin Festival. He’ll go back in trip – there is a two-mile-five-furlong race – but there are a few other options which we need to discuss.

“He came out of the race the last day well. He is not entered at Cheltenham yet, but there is a possibility he will go there. He might get an entry in the Brown Advisory, although we’d probably head to the National Hunt Chase more than the other option.

“We’ll see what the owners say. There are no hard and fast plans at the moment. We will try to progress from that.”

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