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Hanlon eyeing Fairyhouse return for stable star Skyace

Skyace is set to make a low-key return to action at Fairyhouse on Tuesday week.

Trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon has earmarked a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle for his stable star, who claimed Grade One glory at the County Meath track in April.

Skyace fell on her next start at the Punchestown Festival, and has not run since being pulled up in the Galway Hurdle in late July.

“Skyace is getting along lovely and she runs at Fairyhouse in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle,” said Hanlon.

“It’s an ordinary hurdle, but she’ll be taking on the geldings.

“I couldn’t be happier after working her on Friday morning. She showed some lovely work.”

Bought for the bargain-basement price of £600 after finishing placed in three bumper starts for Willie Mullins, the six-year-old has won five times for her current connections.

Following Grade Three and Listed triumphs, Skyace was fourth at the Cheltenham Festival – before providing Hanlon with his first top-level success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.

Skyace to head for Galway Hurdle

Grade One-winning hurdler Skyace will reappear in this month’s Galway Hurdle.

Bought out of Willie Mullins’ yard for £600, Skyace has proved a revelation for her new connections – winning five times and mostly at big odds.

Her crowning moment of the season came at Fairyhouse when she won the Mares Novice Championship Final.

“The mare goes for the (Galway) Hurdle (on July 29) – I’ll probably have 10 or 12 during the week,” trainer Shark Hanlon told Racing TV, looking forward to the big Festival meeting.

“She’s rated 140, and I’d say there’ll probably be a 160 or 165 horse in it, so she’ll get in there with a nice weight.

“She’s entitled to go – it’s probably too short for her, but she’s entitled to be there.”

Skyace does not show off on the gallops, but keeps surprising Hanlon on the track.

He added: “She had a month or six weeks off – she put on a lot of weight.

“She’s an amazing mare – every day you work her you come home scratching your head, because she never works well.

“She worked the other morning – and Shane (Fenelon), who works her, said she was in great form.

“That’s all we can go off – get her fit, have her in good form, and then on the track she does it.”

Bargain-buy Skyace all set for Punchestown

Shark Hanlon is banking on bargain-buy Skyace continuing her remarkable rise up the ranks at the Punchestown Festival.

A five-time winner since being bought out of Willie Mullins’ yard for £600 – her story took a new twist when she provided Hanlon with a first Grade One at Fairyhouse last time out.

While her handler is well aware she needs to take her form to another level against the likes of Concertista and Telmesomethinggirl, she remains on good terms with herself.

“She’s definitely going to Punchestown for the mares’ race (the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares’ Champion Hurdle, on May 1),” said Hanlon.

“She came home out of Fairyhouse and didn’t know she had a race.

“We’re going out of novice company, but we have to give her a chance in it.

“I know we have to find 10 or 12lb with a good few of these, but she’s a young improving mare and we’re hoping she will stay improving.”

Bargain-buy Skyace in line for Punchestown

The Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown could be next on the agenda for Skyace following her popular success at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Bought for the bargain-basement price of £600 after placing in three bumper starts for Willie Mullins, the six-year-old completed her fairytale rise by providing trainer Shark Hanlon with a first Grade One success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.

Hanlon reported his stable star to be none the worse on Easter Monday as he reflected on his accomplishment.

“It was a great day. To have my first Grade One winner on Easter Sunday was a dream,” said the Bagenalstown-based trainer.

Trainer Shark Hanlon was thrilled with Skyace's victory
Trainer Shark Hanlon was thrilled with Skyace’s victory (Niall Carson/PA)

“I think I’ve had seven Grade Ones seconds, so I suppose we were entitled to one. There’s a great buzz around the yard this morning among all the lads – that’s what keeps the whole thing going.

“I think it’s great for racing as it shows you pick up a horse for small money and you can go and have a bit of fun. Hopefully it gets more people into racing.

“I love the owners that I have, but I could just do with one or two big owners in the yard. Hopefully this result helps.”

Hanlon was not short of confidence in Skyace prior to the Fairyhouse assignment – and is eyeing further top-level honours on the final day of the National Hunt season at Punchestown on May 1.

Some of her owners enjoyed celebrating her latest triumph in Dubai.

Hanlon added: “I might have been a bit bold with the comment I came out with on Saturday, saying I thought she was a certainty, but you have to put your head on the block at some stage!

“She’s such a tough mare. She came home and stuck her head in the pot last night and you wouldn’t even know she’d had a race.

“I’d find it hard to run her against the geldings at Punchestown, but I was thinking about it last night and if Honeysuckle goes for the Champion Hurdle in Punchestown, we might go for the two-and-a-half-mile mares’ race. I don’t want to take on Honeysuckle, though.

“Our mare got a break before Cheltenham and after Punchestown there is very little for her, so if she went to Punchestown, she could have a couple of months off again.

“I think she’ll be a right mare for Cheltenham next year – for the Mares’ Hurdle.”

Skyace hits Grade One heights at Fairyhouse

Bargain-buy Skyace claimed Grade One glory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse.

Despite placing in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the six-year-old changed hands for just £600 in November 2019 and has proved an extremely shrewd acquisition by trainer Shark Hanlon.

Following wins at Grade Three and Listed level, the six-year-old finished fourth in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month – and was a 4-1 joint-favourite for her latest big-race assignment.

Skyace travelled strongly on the heels of the leaders for much of the way, but after taking over the lead early in the home straight, she looked at the mercy of the strong-travelling Gauloise between the final two flights.

However, Jody McGarvey’s mount refused to bend and managed to hold off the Mullins-trained runner by half a length.

Hanlon, saddling the first Grade One winner of his career, said: “It’s great – she’s as tough as nails.

“She came home from Cheltenham and I said she was better coming out of it than she was before she went.

“I was afraid of the mares that hadn’t ran in Cheltenham more than the ones that had. I just felt she’s in great form, she’s tough and it’s great to have one like her.

“Everyone wants to have one Grade One winner and for me to have one is great.

“I think it’s great for racing as it shows you can get a small-priced filly and get a syndicate together and go and have fun.

“It’s great for the lads that own her. There’s a hundred of them sitting down today in Dubai for a meal – they did the same at Cheltenham – and there’ll be a few roars.

“I honestly thought she couldn’t get beat today.”

Skyace and Gauloise in action at Fairyhouse
Skyace and Gauloise in action at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

McGarvey added: “It’s pure fairytale. Every time she kept winning, nobody could believe it and everybody kept underestimating her.

“Shark gave her a break at the right time and she’s thrived for it. She’s turned into a brilliant racemare.

“Even when she won in Punchestown (in December), I said after it ‘what’s she got to do for everyone to believe how good she is’?

“She’s come here today and she’s proved that she is that good.”

Hanlon eyes new heights with Skyace

Shark Hanlon is confident his bargain buy Skyace has plenty in her favour as he aims to land the first Grade One of his career in the  Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse.

Picked up for just £600, Skyace has been a revelation this season – winning four times, including a Grade Three at 66-1 at Down Royal and also defying a penalty in a Listed race at Punchestown at 28-1.

Her connections have certainly made their money back – especially if they have backed her – and she again ran with credit at Cheltenham last month, when fourth as she tried to concede 5lb to winner Telmesomethinggirl and the other two who finished in front of her.

“She ran a cracker at Cheltenham, because she was conceding weight to all the ones who beat her,” said County Carlow trainer Hanlon.

“We’re 5lb better off with those who finished behind us there and are taking us on again. This trip of two-and-a-half miles will suit her better as well – she’s got a lot in her favour.

“We only went backwards in trip last time because it was Cheltenham. She definitely wants further, but the three who finished in front of her don’t run in this.

“The only thing you’d be afraid of is if there was a fresh mare there, but a lot of them went to Cheltenham.

“She’s definitely better on good ground than soft ground but ground wouldn’t be a big issue with her. I’d say she’d be happier on nicer ground.”

Either way, Skyace has already repaid her purchase price many times over.

Hanlon added: “You’d never think you’d be going for a Grade One with a £600 mare, but she’s great for racing.

“It’s like Rachael Blackmore – she’s a dream story, and so is this mare.

“I’ve never won a Grade One, I came close a few times with Hidden Cyclone and Luska Lad – but please God this one can do it.”

Glens Of Antrim, Roseys Hollow, Hook Up and Gauloise all re-oppose after finishing behind Skyace at Cheltenham.

Joseph O’Brien runs two in Castra Vetera and Global Equity – who need to find marked improvement.

O’Brien told Betfair: “Castra Vetera made a promising hurdling debut at Naas, but didn’t build on that when upped in class in a Grade Three mares’ novice hurdle at Fairyhouse last time.

“She’s better than she showed there, and will hopefully bounce back here.

“Global Equity disappointed at Limerick last time, but would have a chance based on her previous two runs. Conditions will suit, and it wouldn’t surprise if she ran well.”

Skyace handed Grade One mission at Fairyhouse

Trainer Shark Hanlon is eyeing Grade One gold at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday with bargain-buy Skyace following her fine effort in defeat at the Cheltenham Festival.

Despite placing in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the six-year-old changed hands for just £600 in November 2019 and has proved an extremely shrewd acquisition.

Hanlon gave his charge a mid-season break after winning Grade Three and Listed prizes in Ireland in October and December, but she was still an outsider for Thursday’s Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

However, Skyace outran her starting price of 28-1 to finish fourth, having conceded 5lb to the three mares that finished ahead of her.

Hanlon said: “I was absolutely thrilled with her as the trip was too short and we were giving away weight to all those in front of us.

“The boys that own her got a great thrill. They had a few quid each-way on her at 40-1 and partied for two days!

“I couldn’t understand how she went out to 40-1 – if Willie (Mullins) or one of the other lads trained her she would be nowhere near that price, but she didn’t know what price she was and I couldn’t be happier with her.

“We can dream away for another while that she’s one for the Mares’ Hurdle in Cheltenham next year.”

More immediately, Skyace will be targeted at the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final on April 4.

“Her trip really is two and a half miles and I’m looking forward to Fairyhouse with her as we’ll be back over our right trip and back on level weights with the mares that finished in front of us in Cheltenham,” Hanlon added.

“Easter Sunday comes up fairly quick, but she had a nice break before Cheltenham and she’s out in the paddock and loving life.”

Skyace to take direct Festival route

Shark Hanlon’s bargain buy Skyace is heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old mare cost £600 out of Willie Mullins’ yard having failed to win in three bumpers for the champion trainer.

She has thrived since joining Hanlon though, winning four times including a Grade Three at Down Royal and a Listed event at Punchestown under a penalty.

“Skyace is back in about three weeks and is in great form. She will go straight for the (Daylesford) Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham,” said Hanlon.

“She put up between 30 and 40 kilos on her break, which is great. She is much stronger than she was when she went out.

“The boys that own her (the Birdinthehand Syndicate) are all in Dubai and are very excited. It’s a dream for them and that syndicate. I’ve sold a further five new horses to syndicates involving the lads and their friends out there.

“To buy a horse for £600 and go to Cheltenham with a chance is a dream, and I think she has a live chance.”

Bargain-buy Skyace sparks Festival dreams

Skyace will head straight for the Cheltenham Festival after continuing her fairytale campaign with victory at Punchestown on Sunday.

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 made a successful start for her new connections at Tipperary in June and has not looked back.

Despite having won a Grade Three event at Down Royal on her previous start, Skyace was a 28-1 outsider for Sunday’s Listed assignment – but proved that recent triumph was no fluke as she ran out a dominant five-length winner in the fog that shrouded the track.

Hanlon said: “I don’t know why she was 28-1. She’d won her graded race, beating a horse that finished third in the Champion Bumper (Queens Brook). If Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott trained her, she would have been 3-1.

“She’s a very consistent mare. It’s a dream come true for the syndicate that own her. There’s five of them involved and it’s unreal to think you can turn £600 into £50,000 in the space of six months.”

Hanlon confirmed his intention to give Skyace a winter break before preparing her for a tilt at the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, for which she is a best-priced 25-1.

“She’ll be put away now and will come back for the mares’ novice hurdle in Cheltenham in March – that’s the big plan for her,” the trainer added.

“She’ll get six weeks off now and won’t run before Cheltenham. She’s only a five-year-old and an improving mare.

“The owners will be going to Cheltenham whatever happens. If they can’t go racing, then they’ll go down the town and watch it there.”

Bargain-buy Skyace continues march through the ranks

Skyace continued her rags to riches story with a clear-cut success in the Listed Voler La Vedette Mares Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Bought for £600 having failed to win in three outings for Willie Mullins, the Shark Hanlon-trained mare was winning over hurdles for the fourth time.

A surprise 66-1 winner in Grade Three company at Down Royal last time out, the five-year-old was conceding weight to all her rivals as a result.

But that did not seem to matter in the slightest, as Jody McGarvey – who has struck up a good relationship with Hanlon’s charge having been on board for all her wins – always looked confident.

Finest Evermore, trained by Mullins, was sent off the odds-on favourite but was beaten approaching the last as Skyace rewarded her supporters at 28-1, winning by five lengths with The Sliding Rock battling on for second past the market leader.

The winner was cut to 33-1 from 50s for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

McGarvey said: “She’s improving all the time, jumped beautifully and she stays well. She galloped right to the line and is getting better with every run.”

When asked if this helped to prove last time was not a fluke, he added: “She won a maiden on the bridle, she won a novice hurdle on the bridle and she went to Down Royal and won a Grade Three. I don’t know what more she has to do to prove to people that she’s as good as she is.”