Tag Archive for: Seddon

McConnell star Seddon set for return at Punchestown Festival

John McConnell’s popular and versatile performer Seddon is set to return to action at the Punchestown Festival.

The 11-year-old provided connections with an unforgettable day at the races when landing the Magners Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

He then reverted to hurdles for the Fitzwilliam Sports Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown’s flagship meeting last term, capping a successful season with another valuable triumph.

A run on the Flat preceded his jumping campaign this season, which then began when he was beaten only a neck in the Deacy Gilligan Hurdle at Galway in September.

Seddon then looked to emulate Shark Hanlon’s Hewick when he set sail for Far Hills in New Jersey to contest the American Grand National, a race in which he finished third for owners the Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate.

The gelding met with a setback after the run and has not been seen since as a result, but now he has returned to action and is being aimed at the Punchestown Festival to kick off a campaign that will run throughout the warmer months.

“He’s Punchestown-bound and hopefully he goes there in good shape, that’s the plan with him,” said McConnell.

“He had a setback in America and we had to do a little procedure on him and he’s coming back from that now.

“He’s in good shape and we’re hopeful that we can get a good run with him now, he’ll probably stay on into the summer.

“We haven’t had much of a campaign with him so we’re hoping we can get him back to form and kick on with him.”

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Seddon set to tackle American Grand National

Cheltenham Festival hero Seddon will have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Hewick when he heads to Far Hills for the American Grand National on Saturday.

John McConnell’s stable star is the latest Irish challenger for America’s top jumping prize and the handler is relishing the opportunity to add to the 10-year-olds burgeoning CV in New Jersey.

Seddon has proved a shrewd acquisition for McConnell and owners the Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate winning four times last season, including providing his handler with a first Cheltenham Festival victory when claiming the Magners Plate before adding to his riches over hurdles at the Punchestown equivalent.

He was last seen being denied by a neck at Galway last month and his trainer believes his versatility could be an asset ahead of his latest big-race assignment.

“It’s exciting and something different,” said McConnell.

“He’s most definitely been a star and a horse of a lifetime for his syndicate, myself and Ben (Harvey, jockey), so anything from here on in is a bonus.

“It was an exciting opportunity to have a go at and hopefully he comes home safe and if he runs his race I will be happy.

“He jumps very well whether it is hurdles and fences so I don’t think that will be a problem and nice ground and the trip will be OK. I suppose it all depends on how he settles in but we’re very hopeful.”

John McConnell with Seddon after his Cheltenham Festival victory
John McConnell with Seddon after his Cheltenham Festival victory (Mike Egerton/PA)

It will also be a big afternoon for jockey Ben Harvey who has struck up a fine partnership with Seddon and will be riding for the first time in America.

“Ben rides him and he’s looking forward to it,” continued McConnell.

“Obviously he has never ridden over there before but he’s a good judge of pace and we wouldn’t have anyone else on him at this stage.”

Raiders from Britain and Ireland have a fine recent record in the Far Hills feature with Hewick using the race as a stepping stone to bigger and better things last year and McConnell has been given plenty of advice from Hewick’s handler John ‘Shark’ Hanlon ahead of Seddon’s cross-Atlantic adventure.

Seddon ridden by jockey Ben Harvey (left) winning at the Punchestown Festival
Seddon ridden by jockey Ben Harvey (left) winning at the Punchestown Festival (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “Shark paved the way and I’ve had a good chat with him about it.

“He has been very helpful and in fact everybody has been really helpful to us along the way and I just want to get see him get on the track and get it over with now.”

Last season was somewhat a breakthrough year for McConnell who as well as tasting success at all three of the major spring festivals, matched his highest number of winners tally in the UK and almost doubled his previous best on home soil.

Now the Stamullen-based handler believes he has got his best ever National Hunt squad heading into the depths of winter and as well as the familiar names of Seddon, Mahler Mission and Anna Bunina, McConnell has highlighted dual bumper winner Intense Approach as one who could thrive this term.

“They are all coming together nicely,” said McConnell. “Some of the bigger yards are starting to roll out now so that will be challenging and we’ll definitely mix it between the UK and Ireland over the winter.

“We’ve got the best set of jumps horses we have ever had so hopefully that will get us some rewards.

“Intense Approach would probably be the horse to watch, he’s won two bumpers for us in Ireland and he will go hurdling. We really like him and think he is a fairly special horse.

“He’ll start off in a maiden and see after that, but he’s a lovely horse and hopefully we will go to some top places with him.”

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American adventure in Seddon’s sights

Seddon will follow in the hoofprints of Hewick when he heads for the American Grand National Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills in October.

Hewick famously landed the two-mile-five-furlong Grade One event with some ease for trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon last year and now fellow Irish handler John McConnell looks poised to send dual Cheltenham winner Seddon to the New Jersey track.

Seddon won a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in October and then after a chase victory at Leopardstown over Christmas, he took the Grade Three Magners Plate Handicap Chase on his return to the Prestbury Park track at the Festival meeting in March.

A fourth successive victory followed over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival in April and McConnell is now prepared to roll the dice Stateside.

He said: “It’s in our heads that the trip and ground will suit him and while it might not top what Hewick did, it will be a nice trip at the very least.

“He’s 10 now and with his rating, he’s either going to be at the top of these big handicaps or in graded races and not winning them, so going to America will be a lovely thing to do.

“Shark paved the way and I don’t know if Willie (Mullins) might line something up over there, after having a bit of success over there this summer. It mightn’t be as easy as it was before, but if he was placed, it would certainly pay for his trip anyway.”

Owned by the Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate, Seddon has run six times in those colours and connections could be keen to run in staying races on the Flat should opportunities arise.

“We were particular about where we run him and what we run him in and it’s been good, but obviously with his rating it is going to get harder from now on,” said McConnell.

“America will be a great opportunity to have an nice holiday and I’d say we will probably run him on the Flat beforehand.

“There is a two-mile race at Killarney in the middle of August. That’s nice timing. I think he could be a nice horse on the Flat over two miles and that’s another avenue we might explore.

“You never know. He certainly could be a nicely-rated Flat horse over a trip and that is something we might explore further.”

Meanwhile, the County Meath handler is keen to see how far up the ladder hurdler Encanto Bruno can climb.

John McConnell will explore Flat options for Seddon
John McConnell will explore Flat options for Seddon (Mike Egerton/PA)

A winner of a Cheltenham bumper in October, the five-year-old was well held on his return in the Champion Bumper, but made a sparking hurdles debut when coasting to a 13-length success at Bellewstown in July.

McConnell said: “I’m hopeful Encanto Bruno will get there in October or November. He won his maiden hurdle at Bellewstown impressively and we have some other nice horses to come along.

“It’s great to have a really nice bunch of jump horses.

“Obviously we haven’t got the strength and depth of some of the big guys, but we definitely have more strength in depth than we’ve ever had.

“It’s a numbers game and we are trying to improve quality now, but I don’t mind having lower-rated horses as long as they can win.”

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Options open for McConnell’s Cheltenham hero Seddon

John McConnell has a multitude of options for Seddon after his Cheltenham Festival success.

The 10-year-old ran a fine race to land the Magners Plate Handicap Chase at 20-1, carrying 5lb claimer Ben Harvey to a one-length victory over Richard Hobson’s Fugitif.

The triumph was a first at the meeting for Meath-based McConnell, who has trained the horse to win three of his five starts since taking over the reins from previous trainer Harry Whittington.

“We were over the moon, he’s done so much for us already and anything else was a bonus and what a bonus it is, to get a winner at the Cheltenham Festival,” said McConnell.

“He’s really well now. He came out of the race fine, we got him home and he’s good, he’s fresh.”

Seddon on his way to Cheltenham Festival glory
Seddon on his way to Cheltenham Festival glory (Tim Goode/PA)

Seddon used to run in the silks of the McNeill family before changing hands last summer, with former owner Max McNeill quick to offer genuine congratulations when the horse triumphed for new connections.

“I’m sure there were mixed emotions, but Max is a pure gentleman and he was very happy for the guys involved and for myself,” said McConnell.

“I’m sure he was a little bit gutted that they weren’t his colours, but that’s understandable and no one expected that rejuvenation.

“Not anyone, not even ourselves, so who’s to know?”

Seddon is likely to run again before the end of the season and there are a handful of paths McConnell could now take, with a return to hurdling not ruled out before his campaign comes to a close.

Seddon with winning connections
Seddon with winning connections (Mike Egerton/PA)

The trainer said: “There are so many options for him, from graded chases to big handicap chases and hurdles as well.

“He probably looks on a nice enough mark over hurdles I suppose, so that might be where we go next with him.

“We’ll let him wind down for a week or two and see, but I’m sure he’ll have a run before the end of the season.”

In the aftermath of his Cheltenham heroics there was praise for Seddon not just as an athlete, but as a character too, and those were sentiments McConnell repeated when saying: “He’s just an angel.

“He’s an angel on the ground to deal with, with the kids he’ll just stand there and get patted and eat his carrots. He just loves being a racehorse as well, you couldn’t ask for a nicer horse.

“If you wanted a perfect racehorse, it’s probably him.”

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Good Time again for Tony Martin at Cheltenham

It was a case of mission complete in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle as Good Time Jonny stormed to Cheltenham Festival success.

Trained to perfection by Tony Martin, he qualified for the big race by finishing third to Maxxum at Leopardstown over Christmas, before tuning-up for his Prestbury Park assignment over an inadequate two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival.

The money had been coming for the eight-year-old building up to the meeting and he was sent off at 9-1 as the tapes went up.

Given a brave steer by Liam McKenna up the inner, Good Time Jonny was out the back as the field headed for home. But his young rider held his nerve to pounce late and deliver his mount with precision, returning a three-and-a-quarter-length winning verdict.

It was a fitting reappearance in the Festival winner’s enclosure for Martin, who has proved synonymous with handicap success in the past and was securing his seventh success at the four-day showpiece.

Martin was full of praise for his rider, saying: “He was last at the top of the hill but had the patience to wait, and it worked out well.

“The horse had been coming on real well since Leopardstown and this is great for Liam.

“When they turned in and started to pick up I knew he would win. Liam never chased him.

“This man has shown when he gets the rub of the green he’s as good as anyone. He hasn’t always enjoyed the breaks you hope for, but when I want to claim I wouldn’t look past him.”

McKenna said: “It’s great for the boys that own him, there’ll be plenty of celebrations from them. They’re great men. It’s great to get these opportunities on a big day like this.

“I got there late enough but that wasn’t my plan, Tony said to get there late and about 10 strides from the line I knew I had it. Just to hear that crowd is different.”

There was further success for the Irish raiders when Seddon gave John McConnell his first Festival winner in the Magners Plate Handicap Chase.

Seddon and Ben Harvey on the way to victory
Seddon and Ben Harvey on the way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

It was also a first winner at the big meeting for Ben Harvey, who never missed a beat aboard the 10-year-old – bringing him home ahead of Richard Hobson’s Fugitif to strike at 20-1.

McConnell said: “I don’t know what to say. He’s the horse of a lifetime. Top jockey, top worker rider, I don’t do anything. I’m just a chancer, that’s all I am. He’s some horse, and the most beautiful, kindest horse you can ever imagine as well.

“He’s just a happy horse. He loves being a racehorse, people talk about welfare and this is a horse that just loves being a racehorse. He would lay down for you, he’s an amazing horse. With Ben on board it was like robbing 5lb, it’s unbelievable.”

Sam Curling’s Angels Dawn ensured a clean sweep of the St Patrick’s Thursday handicaps went to Ireland when holding off Stumptown to claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase by a neck.

Angels Dawn and P A King coming home to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
Angels Dawn and P A King coming home to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse (David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA)

The eight-year-old unseated her rider when sent off favourite for Punchestown’s Grand National Trial last month, but bounced back in style here, travelling with real menace in the hands of Patrick King and showing plenty of guts when challenged by Gavin Cromwell’s 7-2 favourite in the closing stages.

Curling said: “That was brilliant – I’m delighted.

“She was unlucky the last day in Punchestown and she’s always promised a lot. 

“We’re only a small team and only have about six horses for the track. We have maybe 70 point-to-pointers and mainly buy and sell horses. We sold Marine Nationale, so it was special to see him here earlier in the week. That’s our game. 

“This mare jumps well and loves the bit of extra distance and Pat gave her a very cool ride. 

“When the rain came I was very hopeful. If she’d won the last day she would have gone up in the weights, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. 

“She’s in the Irish National, but she probably wouldn’t get into that. I hadn’t really looked beyond today, to be honest.”

King said: “It’s unbelievable, I didn’t think I’d ever have this feeling, it’s surreal, it’s my first ride at the Festival. I’ve had a winner at the October meeting but to ride this for Sam, who has been a big part of my career, I’m delighted.

“I was nearly at the end of riding as things had gone very quiet for me but I joined Sam and since then I’m back, he’s been a big part.

“I’ve known Sam a long time and he told me if I joined him there’d be chances for him and I’ve never looked back.

“I was in front far too soon, I wasn’t supposed to be in front before the last but I thought from a long way out I was going very well and thankfully it worked out.”

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