Tag Archive for: Morgiana Hurdle

Fascinating Morgiana in prospect as Elliott and Mullins go head to head

Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins hold all the aces in what remains a fascinating Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday, despite two defections.

Much attention will surround the Elliott-trained Zanahiyr, who is now the handler’s only runner following the withdrawal of Abacadabras.

The former lost his unbeaten record over timber when beaten favourite in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, before just being denied in Grade One company at Punchestown.

Elliott floated the idea of stepping up in trip for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle after his winning reappearance in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle at Down Royal, but he stays at two miles for his biggest test yet.

He said: “Willie’s two look like they are very good horses.

“Obviously he won (over the trip) in Down Royal, but it wouldn’t shock me if we have to step him out in trip at some stage.

“I couldn’t have been happier with Zanahiyr at Down Royal and this is another step up again and a big step for a four-year-old, but he’s been good since and it will tell us more about where he fits in.

The victory of Abacadabras 12 months ago interrupted a run of nine successive wins for Mullins – who numbers 10 in the race in total, including three with the mighty Hurricane Fly.

Echoes In Rain could go to the very top
Echoes In Rain could go to the very top (Niall Carson/PA)

He is represented this year by 2018 winner Sharjah and the improving mare Echoes In Rain, whose rise was cemented in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, has struck up a fine relationship with Sharjah – being beaten only by Honeysuckle at Cheltenham – and takes the ride once more.

“Sharjah is just one step off the very, very best,” he said.

“He has a great record at Leopardstown at Christmas, but he will run this weekend. I’d expect a good performance, but he will probably improve for it.

“Echoes In Rain settles much better in her races now, which is great.

“It’s always hard stepping into open company from novices, but her performance at Fairyhouse was probably better than her Punchestown run so we’re going to give her every opportunity to be a Champion Hurdle mare.”

The Joseph O’Brien-trained Darasso, winner of the Lismullen Hurdle last weekend, was also declared but was another late withdrawal, leaving just three to contest the race.

Sharjah tops the list for five-runner Morgiana Hurdle

Sharjah heads a select field of five for Sunday’s Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

The Grade One heat is dominated by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott with the first-named fielding both Sharjah and Echoes In Rain while his rival runs Abacadabras and Zanahiyr.

Sharjah claimed the Morgiana in 2018 and won the Matheson Hurdle on the first of his four runs last term, but then had to settle for third behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle, before taking second to the supermare at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.

Echoes In Rain made rapid strides last term and after claiming two Grade Two victories, she triumphed at the highest level when landing the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Zanahiyr was among the top rank of juvenile hurdlers for Elliott last term and is already a winner this season having returned with an effortless victory at Down Royal last month.

Abacadabras won the Aintree Hurdle back in April, but finished only fourth to Honeysuckle at Punchestown with upwards of 10 lengths to find with Sharjah.

Joseph O’Brien provides the fifth contender in Darasso, who makes a swift return to action having won the Lismullen Hurdle last Sunday.

Vanillier, winner of the Albert Bartlett last year, leads the way in the Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

He could finish only third on his initial chase outing at Down Royal, but Gavin Cromwell ups him to Grade Two level for his second start.

Sixshooter impressed with a debut win for Noel Meade at Galway and he is one of five opponents along with Elliott’s pair of Fancy Foundations and Run Wild Fred, plus Dewcup and Ballyshannon Rose.

Owner Kenny Alexander’s pair of Telmesomethinggirl and Gauloise top nine contesting the Frontline Security Grabel Mares Hurdle.

Cheltenham winner Heaven Help Us and Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala also feature in the Listed heat.

Super seven remain in Morgiana mix

Sharjah, Saldier and Abacadabdras, the last three winners of the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle, are all among seven remaining confirmations for Sunday’s Grade One at Punchestown.

Sharjah was successful in 2018 when beating then stablemate Faugheen and he has also won a Galway Hurdle, two Matheson Hurdles at Leopardstown and finished second twice in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Saldier is still only seven but at the time of his win in 2019, he looked set to be a huge player in the championship events.

Unfortunately injuries have played a part since then but, like Sharjah, he won a Galway Hurdle under a big weight and followed up in a Grade Three at Tipperary last time out.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Sharjah is a proper Grade One horse. He’s won the Morgiana Hurdle before, but he won it coming off winning the Galway Hurdle.

“Saldier has won this race before as well. We did try to step him up in trip last year and we might try that again, so we’ll wait and see.”

Saldier provided Willie Mullins with a ninth successive win in the Grade One and only Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras prevented him from making it 10 last year.

An early faller in the Champion Hurdle, he stepped up in trip at the Grand National meeting to win the Aintree Hurdle and was subsequently fourth to Honeysuckle at Punchestown.

Mullins could also run two top-class mares in Echoes In Rain and Stormy Ireland, while Elliott has also entered Zanahiyr, winner of the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal on his reappearance.

Zanahiyr could run in the Morgiana Hurdle following an easy win at Down Royal
Zanahiyr could run in the Morgiana Hurdle following an easy win at Down Royal (Brian Lawless/PA)

Patrick Mullins added: “Echoes In Rain is probably a bit harder on herself at home just by being a younger horse, so she could be a little fitter than some of the other ones starting off, so we’ll let her go all being well and find out where she fits in.

“The ground doesn’t look like it will be a determining factor as none of them want it heavy and we don’t expect that.

“We’ll see their work later in the week and see how Willie wants to split them, but the Punchestown Winter Festival is an important date in our calendar.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Lismullen Hurdle winner Darasso is the only contender not trained by Mullins or Elliott.

Gavin Cromwell’s Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier is a possible runner in the Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase, having run a sound race to finish third on his chasing debut over a trip short of his best.

“He’s in at the weekend at Punchestown, in the Florida Pearl, and we’ll see what the ground is like,” said Cromwell.

“He’s in good nick, he worked this morning and he might go there.

“The first run sharpened him up no end so we’d be hopeful the next day when we step up in trip with him.”

Telmesomethinggirl was one of Rachael Blackmore's winners at Cheltenham
Telmesomethinggirl was one of Rachael Blackmore’s winners at Cheltenham (Michael Steele/PA)

Elliott could run Fancy Foundations and Run Wild Fred, while Noel Meade’s Sixshooter and John McConnell’s Streets Of Doyen are among nine entries.

Mullins looks to hold an extremely strong hand in the Frontline Security Grabel Mares Hurdle with Elimay, Gauloise and My Sister Sarah among 13 entries.

Also engaged are Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Festival winner Telmesomethinggirl, Coral Cup victor Heaven Help Us and Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala.

Abacadabras weaves Morgiana magic

Abacadabras denied Willie Mullins a 10th successive win in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown as he beat Saint Roi by a neck in a thrilling finish.

Narrowly denied in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March, Abacadabras was beaten on his return to action at Down Royal while County Hurdle winner Saint Roi had cruised to victory at Tipperary last month.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite, Saint Roi appeared to be going as well as anything turning into the straight, but Mark Walsh was soon struggling for racing room.

Coeur Sublime briefly threatened to break away, only to be reeled in by Jason The Militant before the Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras (13-8) hit the front under Jack Kennedy.

Saint Roi got going after the last and was closing all the time, but as Walsh forced his way between the eventual winner and Jason The Militant, the line came too soon with Abadcadabras holding on.

Elliott said: “I definitely knew he’d improve from Down Royal, where he took a blow after the second last. He came forward from the run and he needed to in a race like that.

“It was a good performance and he’d be better suited by a strongly-run race on better ground and produced later. Jack had to go on when he did.

“The logical next race is Leopardstown at Christmas.”

Kennedy said: “I was happy enough the whole way. Just coming across the bottom, he put in a few clumsy jumps.

“I got there way too soon. When it was Coeur Sublime beside me, I wanted to get him under pressure as he hadn’t had a run this season and my lad did. It worked out that I was there too soon and he idled in front.

“A stronger gallop would have suited. I was waiting for them to come at me, but the line came in time.”

Saint Roi puts Champion Hurdle claims on the line at Punchestown

Saint Roi bids to show he is a true Champion Hurdle contender when he steps up to Grade One company for the first time at Punchestown on Sunday.

The five-year-old only made his debut for trainer Willie Mullins in December on his move from France, yet has shot through the ranks on his last three starts.

Saint Roi looked destined for the top when winning the 24-runner County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and he had no trouble landing the odds on his return in a Grade Three contest at Tipperary last month.

He has been handed the task of giving Mullins a 10th consecutive win in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle, with just four rivals standing in his way.

Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Morgiana Hurdle for the last nine years
Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the Morgiana Hurdle for the last nine years (Simon Cooper/PA)

Mullins said: “He came out of the race in Tipperary well. I’m very happy with him coming here.

“It’s a big step up in class, but he’s going to have to do it some day.”

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “It’s a competitive-looking race. Willie seems to be very happy with him and we’re hoping he runs well.

“We’ll know a lot more about him after Sunday. He won nicely the last day when the race conditions suited him well. We’re happy with him for Sunday and we’ll take it from there.”

Abacadabras, who was second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, represents Gordon Elliott.

Jessica Harrington runs stable stalwart Supasundae with Coeur Sublime and Jason The Militant completing the quintet.

Latest Exhibition attempts to build on his debut success over fences in the Liam And Valerie Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

Runner-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Paul Nolan-trained seven-year-old got off the mark over the bigger obstacles over this course and distance last month.

Nolan said: “All is good. He’s in good form and he’s been doing his routine stuff at home.

“I hope he puts in a clear round and gives a good account of himself.

“He seems very well. He’s uncomplicated and hopefully he’ll run well.”

Among his rivals are the Tom Mullins’ mare Court Maid, winner of both her starts over fences, and the Elliott-trained pair Pencilfulloflead and Run Wild Fred.

Elimay goes for a fifth successive win in the Frontline Security Grabel (Mares) Hurdle.

Her last two victories over fences, but connections of the Mullins-trained six-year-old have opted to start this season off over the small obstacles.

Elimay switches back to hurdling at Punchestown
Elimay switches back to hurdling at Punchestown (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s nice to get her back started. She’s back over hurdles and she’ll be returning to fences later on,” said Berry.

“Willie says she’s well. It’s a nice starting point to get her back out there on a good track.”

Mullins also saddles Buildmeupbuttercup while Harrington’s 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light is set to take her chance after being a late withdrawal over fences at Clonmel on Thursday.

Mullins pair among six on course for Morgiana

Willie Mullins’ pair of Saint Roi and Saldier head six in contention for the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

Saint Roi has won three of his four starts for Mullins to date, signing off last term with an impressive County Hurdle success at Cheltenham before returning with a bloodless five-and-a-half-length verdict in a Tipperary Grade Three.

While the five-year-old arrives with the benefit of a run, stablemate Saldier would be having his first start on Sunday since winning this Grade One event last November.

The six-year-old shocked odds-on favourite and fellow Mullins inmate Klassical Dream 12 months ago, but did not run again after suffering a setback.

Mullins has won the last nine renewals of the race. His chief rival this time appears to be Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras, who suffered a surprise reverse at the hands of Aspire Tower on his return in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal last month.

The winner’s stablemate Jason The Militant was back in third in that Grade Two event, and trainer Henry de Bromhead is planning to give him a chance at the top level this weekend.

He said: “I’d say we’ll have a go at the Morgiana this week. It’s a little bit quicker back than I normally would, but he’s tough.

“Paul (Townend) said he felt he might have started to race a little bit sooner than he ideally wanted to, and he said he took a good blow after the last (at Down Royal). I thought with his Flat run at Fairyhouse when he won, that would have had him spot on, but I’d left him a little bit short.

“He will come on for his run the other day. He’s a good horse, so it will be interesting to see him in the Morgiana.”

Jessica Harrington’s three-time Grade One winner Supasundae and the Gearoid O’Loughlin-trained Coeur Sublime complete the possibles.

Latest Exhibition is one of nine entries for the Grade Two Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

A Grade One scorer over hurdles, he made a winning chase bow for Paul Nolan at this track last month, but he could face some stiff opposition this time.

Elliott has Galway first and second Pencilfulloflead and Coko Beach, plus Run Wild Fred, while Joseph O’Brien’s Home By The Lee hit the target in Grade Three company last time.

Tom Mullins’ Court Maid is another to note after two impressive chase victories.