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.”