Tag Archive for: Zenta

El Fabiolo bids to maintain Mullins’ Hilly Way domination

El Fabiolo begins on a well-trodden path to the Queen Mother Champion Chase when kicking off his season in the Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday.

His trainer Willie Mullins has won the race a record 14 times, with Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Chacun Pour Soi and Energumene amongst the Closutton alumni to claim this prize en route to the Cheltenham Festival.

Energumene used this as his starting point in both of his Champion Chase-winning seasons, but with his injury setback putting respective hat-trick bids on hold, the door has been opened for El Fabiolo to fill the void.

Unbeaten as a chaser, the six-year-old registered a brilliant Grade One treble last season, winning at the Dublin, Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals in supreme fashion – and he is already dominating the ante-post betting for the Champion Chase in March.

“He was unbeaten over fences last season and this looks a nice starting point for the new campaign,” said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to El Fabiolo’s owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

“It’s been Willie’s plan from quite a long way out really, to go for this race, and we’re excited to see him back out.

“It’s really good prize-money for a Grade Two. He has got the entry in the Grade One at Christmas and we’ll get the Hilly Way out of the way first, but it could be coming a bit close.

“We’ll just see how he comes out of the race, but it’s all systems go for Sunday. It’s a tried and tested route for Willie – he tries to run his best two-miler in it, and hopefully El Fabiolo might be that now with Energumene on the sidelines.”

El Fabiolo after winning the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival
El Fabiolo after winning the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)

El Fabiolo’s opposition includes a former Closutton stablemate in Jungle Boogie, who is one of two in the race for new handler Henry de Bromhead, alongside convincing Grand Annual victor Maskada.

Barberstown Castle Chase runner-up Fil Dor represents the flying Gordon Elliott team, with Gavin Cromwell’s Grand National runner-up Vanillier and Patrick Foley’s Rebel Gold also taking part.

“We were delighted with Fil Dor at Naas and he’s in good form ahead of Sunday,” said Elliott.

“Naas was his first run of the season and his first run back over fences, so there was a lot of positives but obviously we are taking on a very good horse in El Fabiolo.

“Our lad is in good form, has a run under his belt and there is no point in shying away from one horse. Hopefully he’ll run well.”

Elsewhere on the card, there could be success for Mullins when Grade One-winning hurdler Zenta makes her chasing bow in the Grade Two O’Flynn Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase.

The four-year-old hardly put a foot wrong last term, winning at Fairyhouse on her stable debut before finishing third to Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle and then achieving her own big-race victory at Aintree.

Zenta (left) winning at Aintree in the spring
Zenta (left) winning at Aintree in the spring (Tim Goode/PA).

“It’s a nice race to start off with and Willie is happy with her, so let’s hope she jumps a good round and goes well,” said owner JP McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“She’s been very consistent and it was great to get the Grade One with her in the spring. We’re hoping for a good round and for her to run well.”

Zenta faces stern opposition from within her own stable, with Paul Townend partnering wide-margin Killarney winner Hauturiere and the Kenny Alexander-owned Heia also engaged.

Harmonya Maker made a blistering start to her chasing career at Gowran Park and represents Elliott, with Con O’Keeffe’s Silent Approach completing the line-up.

“We couldn’t have asked for more from Harmonya Maker at Gowran and she’s in good form,” Elliott said. “This was the next obvious race for her and we’ll see where we go from here for the rest of the season with her.”

In the Grade Three Singletons Supervalu Stayers Novice Hurdle, big-money buy Mahon’s Way will look to build on an impressive debut over timber at Naas for De Bromhead.

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Zenta repels Bo Zenith in Aintree thriller

Hot favourite Zenta edged out the gallant Bo Zenith in a thrilling climax to the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

Having placed third as part of a Willie Mullins one-two-three-four in last month’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, Zenta was the clear form pick and was priced up accordingly as the 5-4 market leader.

After travelling powerfully in midfield in the hands of Mark Walsh, the JP McManus-owned filly moved towards the front end still full of running early in the home straight, at which stage it looked a case of how far she would win by.

But in Gary Moore’s dual winner Bo Zenith she came up against a rival who refused to go down without a fight, setting up a titanic tussle on the run-in.

No quarter was given by either horse or jockey, but much to the delight of favourite-backers it was Zenta who had her head down when it mattered.

Nusret, bidding to give Joseph O’Brien a Grade One double following the opening-race success of Banbridge, was five lengths further back in third.

Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said: “She travelled and jumped brilliant, we think she’s still improving.

“Mark just thought he got there a bit too soon. She travelled and jumped so well he’s just ended up in front sooner than he wanted.

“When he got there he felt he’d better keep going but he said she pulled herself up, she still had plenty left.

Zenta and Bo Zenith locked in battle
Zenta and Bo Zenith locked in battle (David Davies for The Jockey Club)

“She’s a lovely mare to go forward with. She’s not had much racing and she was very green the day she won her first race for us. That was why we ran her, just to get some more experience into her.

“I don’t know if she’ll go to Punchestown, we’ll see how she is when we get her home.”

Mullins was not on course, but said: “Two very good horses fought it out and it was just on the nod so she was very brave to come back and get back up.

“She looks a real prospect for the future, but I doubt she’ll go to Punchestown.”

Owner Olly Harris said of his runner-up: “He’s a proper horse, really good, and when he battled back I thought we had it.

“He’s going to be a two-and-a-half-mile chaser. We’ve looked after him but thought he had a massive chance today.

“We were a bit scared of Willie’s and it turned out that Zenta had a bit more speed than us.

“Ours is a horse for the future and we will put him away now.”

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Next stop Aintree for Stayers’ Hurdle hero Sire Du Berlais

Stayers’ Hurdle hero Sire Du Berlais will roll on to Aintree to defend his Jrl Group Liverpool Hurdle title next month.

The 11-year-old was a surprise 16-1 winner last year and created another shock when triumphing at Cheltenham as a 33-1 shot earlier this month.

He had shown little in four previous starts, but Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, says connections are keen to head back to Merseyside now.

Gordon Elliott (left) with Sire Du Berlais
Gordon Elliott (left) with Sire Du Berlais (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It was a fantastic result,” Berry said. “He was in great form and all credit to Gordon Elliott and his team.

“He has come out of the race good and the plan is now to go to Aintree.”

Zenta, a close-up third to Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle, also looks set to run at Aintree.

Zenta (left) was beaten by Lossiemouth
Zenta (left) was beaten by Lossiemouth (Tim Goode/PA)

The Willie Mullins-trained four-year-old, who took a Grade Three at Fairyhouse in February, was only just run out of second place by Gala Marceau.

Berry added: “While it is a bit up in the air at the moment, if all was well with her, I’d say she will go to Aintree.”

However, one runner not due to make the trip is Corbetts Cross, who ran out when well in contention at the final flight in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

The Emmet Mullins-trained six-year-old was snapped up by McManus ahead of his Festival run but while things did not go according to plan at Cheltenham, connections will not bid for compensation this term.

Berry, said: “There was a bit of a gap in the railing and he just copped it. He came back OK, but he is finished for the season.

“We’ll see how he is over the summer before making any plans for him.”

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