Invitation Only impresses at Punchestown

Invitation Only (left) 
Image by Tattersalls Ireland

Invitation Only reinforced his burgeoning chasing reputation with an excellent performance in the Grade Three Total Event Rental (Kildare) Novice Chase at Punchestown.

A classy field of six went to post for this 2 ½ mile contest.

At the off it was Invitation Only who went into the lead from Mossbank and The Storyteller.

The order remained the same as the field raced down the back with six lengths covering the field as Invitation Only came to the sixth fence from home.

Three out, Invitation Only travelled well, with Mossbank under pressure, while The Storyteller blundered at the second last.

The front pair drew clear turning for home, but Invitation Only was going the best, but seemed to run down the fence.

That gave stable mate Koshari half a hope, but David Mullins pushed out Invitation Only on the flat and he went away in the manner of perhaps one of the leading novice chasers of the season.

Koshari duly made it a Willie Mullins one-two, with The Storyteller getting back up for third.


William Henry lands the Lanzarote Hurdle for Henderson

Nicky Henderson, celebrated getting married in some style, as William Henry claimed top honours in the 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.

The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old was one of three horses allotted top-weight in the fiercely-competitive handicap, although leading conditional James Bowen claimed a very handy 5lb.

There were still several horses in with a chance jumping the second-last hurdle, but approaching the final obstacle it was between William Henry, Red Indian and Spiritofthegames.

William Henry produced a big leap when he needed one to to take a slender advantage and found plenty for pressure on the run to the line to score by three-quarters of a length.

Spiritofthegames was a clear second, while Red Indian just held the fast-finishing Topofthegame for third.

Bowen said: “I can’t thank Mr Henderson enough for giving me the opportunity to ride him. I thought he had a very good chance and he has gone and done it.

“I’ve done plenty of schooling with him since his last run over fences. I think he might have just scared himself a bit that day.

“He jumped really well today and there is no reason why he can’t go over fences again.”

He added: “I can’t believe things are going as well as they are, it’s incredible. Hopefully it will keep going.”


Mr Whipped still unbeaten after Warwick victory

Mr Whipped claimed his third win from as many starts for Nicky Henderson in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

Bought for £160,000 after winning an Irish point-to-point last spring, the son of Beneficial made a successful hurdling debut at Kempton in November and followed up in good style at Newbury last month.

Count Meribel took the field along for much of the race, with Mr Whipped towards the rear before coming on the bridal two out.

He stepped up to Grade Two level and while his supporters had a few anxious moments turning for home, with Mr Whipped briefly caught in a pocket, he got clear daylight early in the straight and looked to have Knight In Dubai well covered on the run to the final flight.

Henderson’s charge showed signs of inexperience when wandering under pressure and Paisley Park was finishing, but Nico de Boinville bagged the rail aboard the market leader and he passed the post a length to the good.

De Boinville told ITV Racing: “I was very impressed with him because he’s still a big, raw baby.

“After he jumped the last he thought that was the job done and started to ease up a bit, but if something had come to me I think he would have gone on again. He had plenty left in the tank.

“He definitely deserves to (go to Cheltenham). His form is rock solid now.”


Glory for Bryony Frost and Milansbar in the Classic Chase

Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Racecourse

Bryony Frost continued her remarkable season by steering Milansbar to big-race success in the Betfred Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick.

The talented conditional jockey has been one of the success stories of the season so far, most notably claiming Grade One glory aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Neil King’s Milansbar was turning out just a week after unseating Trevor Whelan in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Fitted with blinkers for the first time, the 11-year-old raced on the pace throughout and after jumping accurately at each of the fences down the back straight, he had his rivals in deep trouble rounding the sweeping bend for home.

Cogry did his best to bridge the gap in the home straight, but Milansbar showed no signs of stopping and passed the post 11 lengths clear under his jubilant rider.

Cogry was in turn 12 lengths clear of 9 Missed Approach in third.

Frost said: “He was awesome. God, he jumped.

“I was really looking forward to riding him. He’s an 11-year-old, but he doesn’t know that.

“He was a bit brave at one down the back, but I thought ‘OK, if you want to go brave, let’s go brave’.

“I got a lovely breather in on the home bend and asked him to go in the straight and he just never stopped. I didn’t even have to pick my stick up.”

Reflecting on the season as a whole, she told ITV Racing: “I’m really lucky. Dave Roberts (agent) and everyone behind me is working really hard to get me on horses like this.

“I love my job. It’s the best world to be in.”


Getabird romps to victory in the Moscow Flyer

Image supplied by Goffs Ltd.

Getabird maintained his unbeaten record with a dominant display in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

Willie Mullins had saddled six of the last nine winners of the Grade Two contest, with Mikael D’Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) all victorious before going on to claim Cheltenham Festival glory later in the season.

The champion trainer saddled three runners in this year’s renewal and having made a big impression on his hurdling debut at the track last month, dual bumper winner Getabird was the even-money favourite to add his name to the illustrious roll of honour.

Patrick Mullins kept things simple aboard the market leader, allowing him to stride on at the head of affairs from flag-fall.

Mengli Khan, already a Grade One winner this season in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, was aiming to get his season back on track after running out at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Gordon Elliott’s charge was sent in pursuit from the home turn, but it was in vein as Getabird galloped all the way to the line to seal a most impressive success.

The winner’s stablemate Carter McKay was third.

Patrick Mullins said: “That was great. He was quite worked up in the parade ring, which isn’t like him, and he jumped off as if he was going to run (away with me).

“But after he jumped the first he kind of backed off a bit and I was actually going a bit slower than I wanted. I wanted to make it a good test as he’s a point-to-point winner and Mengli Khan is a Flat horse.

“I was a bit worried when we turned out of the back that we hadn’t gone fast enough, but the gears he’s shown from the back of the second-last, he didn’t have those when I rode him as a bumper horse.

“That performance was better than I was expecting, to be honest.

“He jumped fantastic – he was rapid – and I’d say he has lots of options now.”


Richard Johnson to the four at Wetherby

Richard Johnson enjoyed a brilliant afternoon’s work at Wetherby in Saturday after riding a four-timer.

While more high-profile fixtures were taking place at Kempton and Warwick, the champion jockey made the journey north to West Yorkshire and got the day off to a flying start by steering the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Noble Robin to a clear-cut victory in the Racing UK Jump To It Novices’ Hurdle.

It did not take him long to complete a double, with Jamie Snowden’s Hogan’s Height making every yard of the running in the Racing UK In Stunning HD ‘Confined’ Novices’ Chase, and the hat-trick was completed by Westend Story in the totescoop6 Results On Handicap Hurdle, trained by his boss Philip Hobbs.

Johnson’s fourth winner of the day came aboard Harriet Bethell’s Newberry New in the Book Now For Medieval Day – 3rd February Handicap Chase and he looked to have a good chance of making it five on the day on John Butler’s in the concluding Racing UK On Sky 432 Fillies’ ‘Junior’ Standard Open NH Flat Race.

However, she had to make do with a narrow second behind Maebh, ridden by 5lb claimer Kevin Jones.


Doctor Phoenix wins the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse

Doctor Phoenix had the perfect remedy for a tricky looking race as he powered to victory in the Bar One Racing Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.

Ten went to post for this two-mile, one furlong contest.

Acapella Bourgeois was on his toes in the preliminaries and keen to get on with proceedings once the flag dropped and the tapes went up, going straight into the lead with Kilcarry Bridge.

Settling down, Kilcarry Bridge held a slender lead from Acapella Bourgeois, with Dysios and The Game Changer next.

At halfway, Kilcarry Bridge had increased his advantage to four lengths, with The Game Changer shading Acapella Bourgeois for second, then came Dysios and Rock The World.

Three out and the lead had reduced, with the field stacked-up behind Kilcarry Bridge and Dysios giving chase.

Into the straight, Kilcarry Bridge led over the second last, as Acapella Bourgeois dropped tamely away, eventually pulling up, while his stable mate Townshend, already towards the rear, blundered badly and unseated David Mullins.

Running to the final fence, Kilcarry Bridge was still in there pitching, but Doctor Phoenix came with a strong run and stormed into the lead under Davy Russell.

He galloped clear for an impressive win from Kilcarry Bridge who had no answer to his power-packed finish. Dysios stayed on for third, ahead of Rock The World.

The ten year old Doctor Phoenix was winning for the second time in four starts, since joining Gordon Elliott’s yard from David Dennis in England.


Weights revealed for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury

The weights have been unveiled for the £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, Britain’s richest handicap hurdle, run at Newbury Racecourse on Betfair Super Saturday, February 10, 2018.

Heading the weights for the Betfair Hurdle, which is staged over two miles and 69 yards, is Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs, 11st 12lb), who went through last season unbeaten in seven starts, including victories at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.

The J P McManus-owned five-year-old disappointed on his only start so far in the current campaign, when fourth in the Ascot Hurdle in November. Hobbs recently reported that Defi Du Seuil scoped badly after his run at Ascot but is now back on track.

Lalor (Richard Woollacott, 10st 6lb) was a top-class bumper performer last season, when successful Aintree, the six-year-old has yet to win in three starts over hurdles but has placed in three very strong novices’ contests.

He was runner-up on his latest start at Cheltenham on December 15, when he had subsequent Tolworth Hurdle victor Summerville Boy behind him in third.

Also entered is Kayf Grace (10st 9lb), one of nine entries for Nicky Henderson, who has saddled a record five winners of the Betfair Hurdle.

Kayf Grace, a bumper winner back in 2016, was an eye-catching winner at Kempton Park over Christmas. If successful on February 10, she would become only the third mare to win the Betfair Hurdle after Mysilv (1995) and Spirit Leader (2003).

The entries from Seven Barrows also include Lough Derg Spirit (10st 7lb), second in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last time out, and Diese Des Bieffes(10st 6lb), a close fifth to stablemate William Henry (11st 6lb) in the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park last weekend.

Call Me Lord (11st 7lb) scored impressively at Sandown Park on January 6, while Jenkins (10st 12lb) got back to winning ways at Kempton Park on January 13.

Other leading contenders include Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard, 10st 3lb), winner over the course and distance last time out in a novices’ hurdle on December 1, and Silver Streak (Evan Williams, 10st 2lb), who was runner-up in a contest at Ascot on December 23.

High Bridge (Ben Pauling, 11st 3lb) is unbeaten in three starts over hurdles at Newbury including on his latest appearance on December 2, while Elgin (Alan King, 11st 6lb) has already scooped valuable prizes at Ascot and Cheltenham so far this season.

Gary Moore, successful three times in the Betfair Hurdle, has two entries headed by Knocknanuss (10st 4lb). The eight-year-old was impressive when landing a handicap hurdle under top weight at Fontwell on Boxing Day.

The 11 Irish-trained entries include Bleu Et Rouge (Willie Mullins, 11st 1lb), fourth at Ascot on December 23, and Campeador (Gordon Elliott, 11st 6lb), who was third at Leopardstown over Christmas.

There is a scratchings’ deadline for the Betfair Hurdle on Tuesday, January 23, details of which will be revealed on Wednesday, January 24.


Champion Hurdle attracts only 23 entries

Buveur D’Air winning the Champion Hurdle
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Past winners Buveur D’Air and Faugheen are among a paltry 23 entries for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 13.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air will attempt to defend the crown he won 12 months ago, while Willie Mullins’ Faugheen, the 2015 hero, has to redeem himself after being pulled up at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Interestingly, the pair are both entered for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 3, although Henderson has indicated an alternative race at Sandown would be the preferred option for his charge.

Mullins has a total of six possibles for the Cheltenham showpiece, with Melon, Yorkhill and Min among them.

Henderson’s support team includes three-times Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Call Me Lord, Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue.

Mullins’ big rival in Ireland, Gordon Elliott, has Apple’s Jade, Mick Jazz and Campeador among the contenders.


38 entries received for the Stayers Hurdle

Sam Spinner on his way to victory in the Long Walk Hurdle
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Sam Spinner tops 38 entries for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s charge propelled himself to the head of the market with a comprehensive victory in the Long Walk Hurdle before Christmas and could face a number of also-rans from that race on March 15.

Runner-up L’Ami Serge is in the mix for Nicky Henderson, while third- placed Unowhatimeanharry finished third in the Stayers’ last year and could try to improve on that for Harry Fry.

Willie Mullins struck 12 months ago with the ill-fated Nichols Canyon and has entered Champion Hurdle hope Faugheen as well as Let’s Dance, Penhill and Bacardys as part of his eight-strong list of possibles.

Gordon Elliott has Apple’s Jade in the mix, although the Mares’ Hurdle she won last year has been talked of as the more likely option, with Supasundae in line to represent Jessica Harrington.

Alan King has given Yanworth an entry, although he has been campaigned over fences so far this term and has multiple Festival options.

King said: “He will go straight to Cheltenham, but I don’t know what race for. He definitely won’t run beforehand and we will keep him fresh and he will either go for the RSA Chase or the Stayers’ Hurdle.

“He is in very good form and has just been doing the odd canter and is ticking away. The Stayers’ Hurdle is worth fortunes this year and his form with Supasundae puts him right in the mix, so we will have to see what they want to do.

“We will have a chat and decide, but I will need to know what to do in good time so I know what to do with him schooling. He has not been back to see Yogi (Breisner) since his last run, but he will do. He has not done a lot since Cheltenham.”

The New One could try three miles for Nigel Twiston-Davies, with Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King) and The Worlds End (Tom George) other notable contenders.