Beacon Edge came from the clouds to claim an unlikely victory in the Baroneracing.com Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
Noel Meade’s seven-year-old, a smart staying hurdler last season, was only fourth jumping the second last and looked booked for a place at best.
By then Gabynako had jumped for fun out in front for Darragh O’Keeffe and thinned the field out in the last half-mile.
Cape Gentleman fell at the fourth last then at the next Midnight Run came down, badly hampering Grand Paradis who lost all chance and was pulled up not long after.
Gabynako was still going great guns in front, but he made an error at the second last giving Fury Road a big opportunity.
Heading to the last Gabynako had just about got back on top but made another error, costing him plenty of momentum and leaving Fury Road in front.
By then Denis O’Regan had coaxed Beacon Edge to within a couple of lengths but on landing over the last, he was the one finishing with a flourish and while to Gabynako’s credit he battled back to head Fury Road, Beacon Edge (7-2) won by a length and a quarter.
It capped a frustrating afternoon for Gabynako’s trainer Gavin Cromwell, who had seen his My Mate Mozzie beaten a short head in the Royal Bond half an hour earlier.
Meade said: “Like everyone else, I thought we were struggling at halfway and we were looking like we weren’t at the races. I don’t think Denis could go any quicker but from three out I thought we were getting back into it.
“I started shouting at the second last as the two in front went so quick and mightn’t keep it up, and there was not a lot between him and Fury Road over hurdles. My lad jumped reasonably well but going as quick as that, maybe he was struggling a bit on the ground.
“You’d have to think three miles is his trip and the three-mile race at Leopardstown over Christmas is the obvious next race for him.
“He has a bit of blood on his nose – I’ve never seen him bleed before, but sometimes they can get that from up high (in his nostril) or sometimes it can happen when they hit a fence. It didn’t stop him today anyway.”
Sixshooter made an impressive start over fences as he made all for victory in the BetVictor Proud To Support Irish Racing Irish EBF Beginners Chase at Galway.
The extended two-mile-six-furlong contest looked an intriguing event, with The Bosses Oscar having finished second in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last term before taking runner-up spot too on his initial chase outing, while Sams Profile was last seen winning a Grade Two hurdle back in January after an unsuccessful couple of attempts over fences.
Sixshooter was placed multiple times in graded company over hurdles for Noel Meade, but he thrived for this switch to the bigger obstacles, with jockey Sean Flanagan positive from the off.
The Bosses Oscar and Sams Profile were also towards the fore. But the latter made a late mistake, which saw him drop right away, while The Bosses Oscar could not find any extra for pressure.
Bay Ambition made a late charge, but Sixshooter had flown and the 3-1 shot was eased down for a four-and-a-half-length verdict.
Meade said: “I’m absolutely thrilled with him, because we didn’t know what to expect – all he had been doing was schooling on the strip at home.
“He is one of the first winter horses we’ve run – and I thought coming here that of my four runners, he might be the one who would need the first run over fences.
“Other than the mistake at the ditch, he was pretty good the whole way, and you’d like it.
“He was a reasonably good hurdler but was a ‘shelly’ horse, and the bit of time has done him good. We’ll stay at a trip – he likes the soft ground and he’ll go for a novice now.”
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Noel Meade and Chris Hayes dominated at Naas as Elysium won the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Garnet Stakes and Lady Of Inishfree landed the Irish EBF Auction Series Race Final.
Elysium was bought by George Strawbridge having won a Group Three last season, but things had not gone to plan for her this campaign.
Off the track until Ascot in July, she was last of seven there, before finishing down the field at both Gowran and Cork.
However, Meade has his string in excellent condition at present and she arrived on the heels of the leaders a furlong out travelling ominously well for Hayes.
Emphatic Answer kept her honest close home but Elysium won by half a length.
Meade said “George bought her after she won the Group Three (Weld Park Stakes) last year and he kindly left her with me.
“We didn’t have a great run with her. I was hoping she’d run in the Irish Guineas but we never got a chance to train her for it.
“She got a lung infection in the spring and we couldn’t get her right. We had all sorts of problems and it’s only in the last six weeks she started to come right.
“She was a bit unlucky in Cork where she got into all sorts of trouble. I knew that every day she was getting a bit better.
“There is a race at Leopardstown next Saturday that she might go for and if not, this will probably be her last run for me as she might be going to the States.
“I’m delighted as he’s a lovely man to train for and he’s been very patient when things weren’t going right.”
Lady Of Inishfree broke her maiden in the best possible fashion when winning the valuable Series Final.
As the filly by Farhh only cost €8,500, she was allotted just 8st 10lb as the weights carried are determined by their sales price.
That looked pretty generous given that on just her second outing she had outrun her odds in the Listed Ingabelle Stakes at Leopardstown when fourth of 11, beaten just three lengths.
Ridden confidently by Hayes, Meade’s youngster travelled with great fluency through the race, but so did Ger Lyons’ Corporal Violette.
It soon became clear the winner would come from those two and it was Lady Of Inishfree (7-2) who proved the stronger, holding off the 11-4 favourite by half a length. Seeingisbelieving was two and a half lengths away in third.
“We’ve loved her all along and that’s why we ran her in the Stakes race. I think she’s very good and she’ll be better on better ground,” said Meade.
“There is no question in my mind that she is a Stakes filly.
“She was eligible for this race and was getting into it well, so we had to have it in mind. The prize money is very good.
“She won’t run again this season and there is a chance that she could be sold. If we have her next year, hopefully she will go for good races.
“One of the owners, Eoin Banville, is in hospital at the moment after getting a kick and knocking the top off his thumb. It’s after getting infected so this will give him a bit of a lift.
“We were beaten a short-head with Layfayette in this race two years ago, so it’s nice to win it.”
Earlier Dermot Weld’s Pearle D’or (13-2) made a winning debut in the Tifrums Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden – also ridden by Hayes.
“He’s a nice, big horse, still very raw. I said to Chris ‘take your time on him, he’ll be a bit backward but he’s been working very nicely and I think he’ll come home well for you’. That’s exactly what happened.
“That’s it for the year with him and let’s hope he makes into a nice three-year-old for us. He’ll learn plenty from that.”
Michael O’Callaghan is keen to take Siesta Beach (11-4) to Newmarket for the Bosra Sham Stakes after she was rewarded for a series of solid efforts when winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.
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Noel Meade is considering a range of big-race options for his Group One winner Helvic Dream.
Meade has enjoyed endless success at the top level over jumps in his career, but the four-year-old’s victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May was by far his biggest on the Flat.
The Power gelding has not run since, but is reported in good shape, as Meade waits for suitable ground conditions.
The County Meath trainer said: “We are waiting on soft ground, but he wouldn’t be ready until the middle of September. He’s entered in the Irish Champion Stakes (on Saturday week), but to be honest I don’t really think that’s realistic with the ground and the likely quality of the field.
“However, if the ground did come up soft he could run in it – because the plan is to go for the Prix Dollar at Longchamp on Arc weekend and then, if it came up soft, we might have a crack at the English Champion Stakes. He’s in great form.”
Meade had a welcome return to winning ways at Roscommon on Monday with Too Bright, and added: “We’ve been pulling our hair out for the last five or six weeks, but hopefully they are coming back to themselves now.”
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Trainer Noel Meade is eyeing an autumn campaign with his Tattersalls Gold Cup hero Helvic Dream.
While no stranger to big-race success over jumps, the Tu Va handler landed his very first Group One success on the Flat when Helvic Dream got the better of old rival Broome in a thrilling contest at the Curragh last month.
Broome has since filled the runner-up spot in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, while True Self and Cayenne Pepper – third and fourth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup – both performed well in defeat at the Curragh last weekend.
Meade, however, is keeping his powder dry for the backend of the season.
He said: “We gave him a break for three weeks after the Tattersalls Gold Cup and he’s just back in the gym again now.
“The plan is not to run again probably until September. We want soft ground, so we didn’t think there was much point keeping him going all the time when the ground is fast.”
Helvic Dream holds an entry in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 11, while Meade also views October’s Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot as a possible objective.
He added: “He’s in the Irish Champion Stakes, but the ground in Leopardstown probably won’t let that happen.
“There’s a few other races – there’s a race or two in France that might suit – and also the Ascot race might work out because it’s usually run on soft ground.
“We might even try him over a mile, but we’ll see how we get on.”
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Noel Meade is in no rush to make concrete plans for Helvic Dream following his thrilling victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday.
Having finished behind the reopposing Broome on each of his three previous outings this season, the four-year-old turned the tables on his favoured soft ground – coming out on top by a short head at the Curragh to provide his trainer with a first Group One success on the Flat.
“There’s not a bother on him this morning – he’s in good form,” Meade said on Monday.
“It was great. He had a few lengths to make up (with Broome) and it’s great when it happens.”
While Aidan O’Brien is considering races like the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot for the runner-up, Helvic Dream does not hold any big-race entries at this stage.
Meade feels cut in the ground is essential for his charge and would not be averse to dropping him back in trip from a mile and a quarter to a mile at some stage.
He added: “I hadn’t really been thinking about Royal Ascot because I thought the ground would be too quick for him. Ascot in October might be worth thinking about, but Ascot in June is definitely not on my mind with him anyway.
“I haven’t really thought about where he’s going to go next, to be honest. We’ll just have to sit down and have a think about where we’re going to head.
“We wouldn’t be against bringing him back a couple of furlongs. Colin (Keane, jockey) has been thinking that for a while.
“The ground is key. We did run him on good-ish ground at the Curragh this year and he didn’t operate on it at all.
“He definitely won’t go further (than a mile and a quarter). We’ll enter him in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Champion Stakes at Ascot and we’ll have a look around and see what’s available beforehand.
“In normal times you’d be thinking France would be a place you’d normally get easy ground, but we’ll get our breath first and see.”
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Helvic Dream provided trainer Noel Meade with a first Group One winner on the Flat as he came out on top in a thrilling renewal Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
While the multiple champion trainer is no stranger to high-profile success over jumps, his Flat runners at Group One level have been far less frequent since Sweet Mint landed what is now the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot in 1978.
Having finished behind the reopposing 10-11 favourite Broome on his three previous outings this season, Helvic Dream was sent off at 8-1 under Colin Keane – and moved ominously into the slipstream of his old rival halfway up the home straight.
To his credit, Broome refused to go down without a fight and the two flashed by the line almost as one, but the judge confirmed Helvic Dream had won the day by a short head.
The Willie Mullins-trained True Self, who was last seen landing a valuable prize in Saudi Arabia in February, ran a fine race in third in the hands of Hollie Doyle.
Meade said: “I shall die happy now – I was roaring!
“Colin said to me he was going to sit a bit closer to him (Broome), sit behind him and have one go on him. He said he went too soon the last day and he actually said he went too soon again today.
“He has an electrifying turn of speed to get there and he lasted out. It was a brilliant ride.
“He’s a lovely horse who has been a pleasure to train. He doesn’t take a lot of work – he doesn’t take a lot of anything.
“There’s been plenty of people trying to buy him, but thanks to the lads that kept faith in me as I felt he could win a Group One.”
Reflecting on his previous efforts behind Broome, the trainer said: “We were very disappointed with his first run and then the second day the ground was too quick and Colin minded him. He said we’d beat them if we get soft ground.
“He improved and ran well the last day and Colin was confident enough today going out. I was afraid to even dream about it, to be honest.
“It’s something you dream about.”
He added: “I’ve had a number of horses placed in Guineas, and a fourth in the Epsom Derby, but that is my first Group One.
“They are so easy to train compared to jumpers. I’m always joking with Flat trainers that they are getting away with murder.
“You don’t have to train Flat horses to stay or to jump and there is not nearly as many injuries.
“I’ve always said that Sheikh Mohammed should have sent Willie 200 horses years ago and got him out of the way!
“I was afraid to even dream about it (winning a Group One). I’m thrilled and it means a lot.”
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Jeff Kidder sprang a 22-1 surprise for trainer Noel Meade as he lifted the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, the final Grade One of this year’s Punchestown Festival and the Irish jumps season.
Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios was widely expected to supplement his Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle success and maintain his unbeaten record, but he was beaten a long way out under Rachael Blackmore.
His swift retreat appeared to have handed victory to Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham third Haut En Coleurs, but Jeff Kidder found plenty in the straight, collaring the Willie Mullins-trained runner before the last to go on to win by three-quarters of a length in the hands of Sean Flanagan.
Zanahiyr swooped late to grab second after getting a bit tight for room with the winner at one point, prompting a stewards’ inquiry that made no difference to the result.
Jeff Kidder was claiming his fourth hurdles victory, having won the juvenile handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival at 80-1 before graduating to Grade Two company at Fairyhouse last month.
“I said in Fairyhouse, if he ever jumps them all he’ll be a really good horse and he did jump today,” said Meade.
“He jumped brilliant and he’s just never stopped improving. Since he came back from Cheltenham, he’s like a film star in the yard. The girls take him off to the beach for a dip and he’s become a star in the yard. I think he’s liking every minute of it.
“A real fast gallop really suits him, like they went in the Fred Winter and as they did there. They were coming back to him and his jumping was fantastic.”
Meade will now look to return to the Flat with Jeff Kidder, adding: “He’s going to have a little break, although I suppose he’s so well you’d think to yourself you should keep going.
“He’ll certainly have a run on the Flat, he’s never going to be a chaser.
“Now that he’s won that, he’s going to have to stay with the big fellas now, that’s his last chance to run in a four-year-old race, so he’ll have to wait until the back end to have a go again.
“It’s been a lonely old week up until now. I said Willie has been the easiest man to find in Punchestown as he’s been in the winner’s enclosure all week.
“To be fair he was the first one to congratulate me. I’m delighted, absolutely thrilled.”
Stormy Ireland (7-2) galloped her rivals into submission in the Grade One Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle – chalking up Mullins’ 17th winner of the week.
Danny Mullins was eager to seize the initiative on the seven-year-old, who was one of four contenders for Willie Mullins.
Stormy Ireland bowled along in front and was still full of running with two to jump as 8-11 favourite and stablemate Concertista tried to reel in her handy advantage along with Minella Melody.
However, Mullins had plenty up his sleeve and the mare, who only recently return to Mullins’ care following an unsuccessful spell with Paul Nicholls, cruised home by to take a first top-level victory.
The Closutton handler admitted his surprise at Stormy Ireland’s progress following a victory at Fairyhouse last month and could now look at Flat targets with his charge.
He said: “She appears to have improved from Fairyhouse. It’s a great day for Danny, a nice double for him.
“That mare surprised me, how much she has come on from that.
“We’ll keep her in training, I don’t think she’s going to go to the breeding shed this year as she looks to have plenty left in the tank.
“I’m having second thoughts now about going chasing with her and maybe we could go back to the Flat with her.
“She’s by Motivator and it might be a safer career option than going chasing. I don’t think she’s going to improver her pedigree by getting black type over fences, she has enough over hurdles.
“If she could do something on the Flat, that would be better for her.”
Mullins made it 18 when the Brian Hayes-ridden Brahma Bull lifted the Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase, before Koshari grabbed another for the trainer in the Baroneracing.com Handicap Hurdle under Ricky Doyle.
Keith Donoghue made amends for an unfortunate incident on Thursday as he teamed up with Call It Magic (22-1) to win the opening Dooley Insurance Group Cross Country Chase.
The duo came unstuck in the La Touche Cup when Donoghue took the wrong course, but trainer Ross O’Sullivan thrilled to see the pair right the wrong with a half-length verdict over Ballyboker Bridge.
“I got an unbelievable kick out of that. I can’t believe it, he hasn’t won a race for four years,” said O’Sullivan.
“All the drama the other day and all the effing and blinding that went with it. I’m in shock. He battled and jumped brilliant.
“Racing is so funny with the twists and turns. Myself and Keith were at loggerheads with each other on Thursday, but we’re back today and he gave the horse an absolute genius of a ride.”
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Cheltenham Festival hero Jeff Kidder followed up in the Rathbarry And Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
A winner over the course and distance earlier in the campaign, Noel Meade’s charge was last seen springing an 80-1 surprise in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in the Cotswolds last month.
Despite that big-race triumph, Jeff Kidder was second-best in the market for this Grade Two contest at 5-1, with the previously unbeaten Teahupoo all the rage as the 4-7 market leader.
It turned into a straight shootout between the two from early in the home straight – and while Teahupoo loomed up looking a big threat, Jeff Kidder already looked to be getting the better of the argument when the odds-on shot produced an untidy leap at the final flight.
In the end Sean Flanagan’s mount prove his Cheltenham success was no fluke with a decisive three-length verdict.
“He’s improving all the time,” said Meade.
“We gave him a little break after he ran in the Grade Two in Leopardstown at Christmas and I was actually worried if I’d left him off too long, but obviously it was perfect. We just let him in and out and let him enjoy himself.
“If he ever learns how to jump the whole lot of them he’ll be grand – he only jumped half of them.
“I’d say he was very weak last year and is starting to get a bit stronger.”
On future plans, he added: “If he never does any more he’s done a lot, but hopefully he will do more.
“I can’t see any reason why he won’t run in Punchestown now in the Grade One and the plan was to run on the Flat during the summer. Colin (Keane) said to me last year ‘when you get him over two miles, he’ll win a Cesarewitch for you’.
“Off 68 he should be able to win a Flat race somewhere, you’d imagine.”
Stormy Ireland made a successful second debut for Willie Mullins in the Grade Two Underwriting Exchange Hurdle.
The Motivator mare won six times during her first stint with the Closutton handler, before being moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard along with the rest of owner Jared Sullivan’s Irish-based string.
She failed to win in four starts in Britain, but having since been sold to new owners for £75,000, she was a 7-2 chance on her first start since returning to the Mullins yard.
Sent straight to the lead by the trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins, Stormy Ireland set a sound gallop from flag-fall and had enough in the tank to hold off 85-40 favourite French Dynamite by a length and a quarter.
Mullins said: “She’s getting her style of racing back and I think Danny suited her great.
“She was bought to breed from, but her owners said we’d discuss after a run or two whether we breed from her this year or not and I think we’ll probably keep her to race and maybe breed next year.
“She could go to Punchestown if there’s a race for her – maybe the Mares (Champion Hurdle). We’ll probably go over fences when the new season comes around.
“We were very happy when we got her back – she was in good shape.”
Trainer Karl Thornton and jockey Donagh Meyler combined to land the Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle with 11-2 favourite Shanroe.
“He’ll go back on the Flat now and we’ll target premier handicaps with him,” said Thornton.
“He’s an odd horse, but his work is always very good. I said I’d run him over hurdles today and leave him then coming into the Flat season.
“Off 97 I still think he’s well handicapped on the Flat. We’ll target Ascot and a few of those two-mile races.”
The Francis Casey-trained Max Flamingo (4-1) benefited from a well-judged ride from Denis O’Regan when winning the Fairyhouse Steel Handicap Hurdle.
Casey said: “He showed a lot of inexperience there, but it worked out right and he loves the better ground.
“I think he’s going to be a chaser some day and I’d love to be back here next year for a big one.”
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Cheltenham Festival hero Jeff Kidder bids to follow up in the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The four-year-old ran out an authoritative winner of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in the Cotswolds last month and trainer Noel Meade is looking forward to testing his powers at Grade Two level on Easter Monday.
He said: “He came out of Cheltenham really well and actually was a kilo heavier on Friday than he was going to Cheltenham.
“He’s fresh as a daisy so we decided we’d let him take his chance, because once you get past Punchestown, he’s into the big world then.”
Jeff Kidder’s biggest threat appears to be the Denise Foster-trained Teahupoo, who is unbeaten in three starts and is already a dual winner over the course and distance.
“Denise’s horse is probably a fair horse. Hopefully he mightn’t be as good on the better ground, but I’d say he’ll be hard to beat,” Meade added.
The Tu Va handler also has a major contender for the second Grade Two on the card in Beacon Edge.
The Doyen gelding steps back in distance for the two-and-a-half-mile Underwriting Exchange Hurdle after finishing a creditable fourth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Meade said: “I said we’d declare him and have a look. He had a hard race in Cheltenham, but Sean (Flanagan) cantered him on Saturday morning and was very happy.”
If Beacon Edge does take his chance, he will be taking on rivals that include the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite, Foster’s Pertemps Final runner-up The Bosses Oscar, Scarpeta and Stormy Ireland from the Willie Mullins stable.
Scarpeta was fourth to Beacon Edge in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan on his latest start, while Stormy Ireland has her first race since returning to the Closutton handler since having a spell with Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat.
“Scarpeta has a little bit to find on ratings, but he’s in good form. Hopefully, he’ll run well,” said Mullins’ assistant David Casey.
“Stormy Ireland is back with us after being away in England. She’s coming back from a break. She is in good form and worked very well during the week. Hopefully, she’ll run well.”
Grade Two honours are also up for grabs in the Devenish Chase, for which Fakir D’oudairies will be a hot favourite.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge would not be winning out of turn, having filled the runner-up spot on three of his four starts this season – most recently in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
Mullins is again two-handed with Easy Game and Annamix, who should both appreciate the spring ground.
“Easy Game has been crying out for a bit of nicer ground. It should suit him,” said Casey.
“Annamix won his beginners’ chase round Fairyhouse and going back there on nicer ground will help him.”
Battleoverdoyen (Foster) and Castlegrace Paddy (Pat Fahy) are also in the mix.
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Thedevilscoachman is on target for Fairyhouse’s big Easter meeting having missed the Cheltenham Festival.
An impressive winner of a Listed event at Punchestown, the Noel Meade-trained five-year-old has won four of his five races under rules.
His sole defeat came at the hands of Willie Mullins’ subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It, and Meade was rather glad his charge was at home in Ireland rather than chasing the 24-length winner in vain at Cheltenham.
“Everything is good and if everybody agrees we’ll be going to Fairyhouse for the novice hurdle, that’s the plan,” said Meade.
“He’s in good shape now, he just got a tiny little nick when he won the last day which slowed him down for a week and ruled out Cheltenham.
“However, having watched Appreciate It come up the hill at Cheltenham, I was glad I was at home!”
Meade was on the mark at the meeting himself when Jeff Kidder caused an 80-1 surprise in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
He added: “There’s nothing for him at Fairyhouse. I’ll have to see as I haven’t made a plan as to where he’ll go next, it will probably be Punchestown.”
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Irish National Hunt Handicapper Andrew Shaw believes results at Cheltenham last week “prove beyond doubt” the best horses are in Ireland.
Shaw grew up in an era when Ireland left the Cotswolds reeling with a solitary victory, but the wheel has gone full circle now.
So much so that Shaw likened it to the Irish contingent playing in the Premier League while their British counterparts are scrambling for promotion out of the Championship.
“I think it proves beyond doubt we simply have the best horses,” said Shaw.
“Back in the 1980s when we were lucky to come away with one winner, it used to be the other way and we didn’t win any handicaps. It’s turned on its head and one of the main reasons is we have the best horses.
“The best horses are bought here and even British owners send their horses here. It’s a bit like the Premier League versus the Championship. We simply have the best horses and it is a tribute to Horse Racing Ireland and the committees that are there.”
Shaw feels the disparity in prize-money is a reason some major owners are now choosing to have their horses trained in Ireland.
“We have the races in place to entice them to come over, the prize-money is in place. I think it was Sporting John who won the Scilly Isles and picked up £20,000 – the equivalent Grade One in Ireland is worth €50-60,000,” said Shaw.
“It’s all about the economics really. The money is here, the best horses are here and that is why we are so successful – that’s my take, we just have the best horses.”
Noel Meade, on the scoresheet himself with Jeff Kidder in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, concurs and feels it is currently a perfect storm.
“When I looked beforehand I thought we’d have a lot, but often it doesn’t work out like that. I suppose the difference was all the handicaps as well,” he said.
“It is a surprise for it to be a total wipe-out, especially when Envoi Allen went down, he would probably have been another one and we got beat another two short-heads in other races.
“There’s no great secret, the best horses win the races. The best horses cost the most money, the most money is being spent by owners in Ireland at the moment. Whether that is because of the prize-money or because we are better trainers or because we are lucky they want to have them here, I don’t know.
“The fact Cheveley Park are buying those horses and sending them here was a terrible kick in the pants for the English trainers at the time. Simon Munir is another putting his money in here, it must be because of the prize money.
“We have a great set-up now and if you have a good horse in Ireland, the way the whole system is put together is much better. A horse like Envoi Allen, you can write down all the races he can run in within five minutes before you head to Cheltenham. It’s a great programme.
“When we put together all the mares’ races I was a bit against them because I didn’t think mares were as good, but they’ve worked very well. They are great for breeders and have worked very well.”
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Officials at Fairyhouse have not given up hope of Tiger Roll running in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
The 11-year-old bounced back to winning ways with an incredible fifth victory at the Cheltenham Festival last week, putting behind him a winless run stretching back to the 2019 Grand National at Aintree.
As his owners Gigginstown House Stud have already withdrawn him from the Aintree spectacular this year – where he would have been trying to equal Red Rum’s achievement of winning the race three times – Tiger Roll’s options now include the Bowl at Aintree, the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish National.
Peter Roe, general manager at Fairyhouse, said: “If Tiger Roll shows up we’d love that. For the team at Cullentra to get him back to the form he was in – from flag-fall you could tell he was loving it.”
After a very wet winter, the ground at Fairyhouse has dried up considerably but the weather could turn again before Easter.
“January and February were the wettest two months on record since we began recording, but we’ve had a dry fortnight,” said Roe.
“It’s unsettled going forward, but we’re yielding at the moment. I’m very happy.
“The support we have got from HRI and BoyleSports to keep the money at €400,000 is amazing. To get in this year you’ll be looking at (a handicap mark of) 136/137 so the quality is rising all the time.”
On that theme Irish handicapper Andrew Shaw admitted he found it just as hard as his British Horseracing Authority counterpart Martin Greenwood to put a figure on Tiger Roll before coming up with 163.
“It was difficult (to give him a mark) as it has been mentioned by Mr (Eddie) O’Leary that he is not as good as the Al Boum Photos and Minella Indos of the world. They think he should be getting a lot more weight off them, but he hasn’t run in a chase over park fences since November 2017,” said Shaw.
“We don’t take the form over the cross-country fences quite as literally as they do in Britain, but at the same time he has won the Aintree Grand National twice. He was in at Aintree off 166, he’s 3lb lower here which is pretty much the same as last year, though I know neither race was run.
“He’s 11 now, time catches up with us all. He won his Grand National off 159, so he’s only 4lb higher here. It’s a fair drop from the 171 which he was after his second National. It was difficult for Martin to drop the horse because he hasn’t run against Grade One horses, so we don’t know how good he is.
“He certainly looked as good last week as he had before in that race. What will make it difficult for Tiger Roll is that we have progressive novices in it, you don’t get those at Aintree.
“I’d love to see him run. I know he could run in the Betway Bowl, but he’d be wrong in that race against a few.”
One trainer with multiple entries is Noel Meade, who won the race with The Bunny Boiler in 2002.
“It is still my favourite win, I have to say. Fairyhouse to me was the place I got started as we weren’t a racing family, but we used to take a picnic there for the National,” said Meade.
“When I was growing up I had a scrapbook of Tom Dreaper and he won the National so many times – to stand in the place he did when I’d won was very special.
“I owe Ross Geraghty, Barry’s brother, for staying on him, he did everything he could to fall. He was quite a good horse, but a terrible jumper. Norman Williamson was telling me the other day that he won the Midlands National on him and was asked to ride at Fairyhouse but he said there was no chance he’d get round!”
Among Meade’s team are School Boy Hours and Brace Yourself, but both need plenty of withdrawals to guarantee a run in the maximum field of 30.
“School Boy Hours might not get in, but I always thought the trip would suit,” said Meade.
“Brace Yourself will take his chance, but wouldn’t want the ground too quick. Tout Est Permis hasn’t been running well, but he could go over to Aintree and see if a trip over livens him up. Brace Yourself is a fresh horse, but he’s only a novice.”
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