THE Henry De Bromhead trained, ‘Aspire Tower’ – runner up in the Triumph Hurdle in March – made all to claim the featured WKD Hurdle with Rachael Blackmore aboard on the first session of the Down Royal Festival. Three were in a line going to the penultimate flight with favourite, ‘Abacadabras’ looking to be travelling best, but the winner battled gamely after the last to win going away, with the Waterford handler also supplying the third placed ‘Jason The Militant’.
De Bromhead said: “Delighted with that. He was so good at Christmas last year and I just felt after that his form just didn’t look as good. He’s a big four-year-old and he had only just come off the flat and maybe everything caught up with him a little bit as the season went on. We gave him a really good break during the lockdown and it is fantastic that he comes back like that.”
Asked regarding the Champion Hurdle, De Bromhead replied: “I think he is entitled to certainly step up again. I’ll speak to the lads and see what everyone wants to do.”
‘Envoi Allen’ sauntered to success in the beginners chase, retaining his unbeaten status – now the winner of 10 races. Jack Kennedy replaced the currently side-lined Davy Russell on the Gordon Elliott star and the pair gave an ultra-impressive display of fencing.
Elliott said: “Brilliant! You loved the way he switched off and went by them, you just love his attitude. You couldn’t be happier. Jack (Kennedy) said he popped away and he quickened after the second last. That’s what he was bought for, he’s a chaser and it’s nice to get that out of the way.”
Jack Kennedy kept it simple in the opener, when making all to score on ‘Farouk D’alene’ to provide the jockey with his first winner since a rapid return to action, aided by cryotherapy treatment for a broken collarbone.
Elliott said: “It was a lovely round of jumping – he’s a big chaser, that’s what he has been bought to be.”
The Cullentra trainer, despite a couple of reversals, completed the hat trick when ‘Chemical Energy’, with Jamie Codd aboard, was the runaway winner of the finale.
Elliott said: “Jamie (Codd) is mad about him and he has a great attitude. He’s only four and a baby. We might just leave him for the spring and some of those better bumpers.”
Elliott also recorded success on the day at Weatherby with ‘Duffle Coat’.
The ‘Shark’ Hanlon sprang a 66/1 surprise with ‘Skyace’ – a £600 purchase from Willie Mullins – in the Grade 3 Mares Hurdle. The Elliott trained, ‘Queen’s Brook’ had won the duel with ‘Politesse’ from three out, appearing set for victory, only for Jodie McGarvey to deliver the winner with late flourish to astound pundits.
McGarvey said: “It was a great piece of buying and placing by Shark. She has her black-type now. She has been a fair old servant. Two miles is a bit on the sharp side for her, but they have gone so fast, it turned into a bit of a stamina test.”
The bend out of the straight was re-aligned and sand applied, with ‘Queens Brook’ having slipped at that point on the first circuit.
‘Ragin Cajun’, with Dillon Maxwell in the saddle, continued an excellent season for trainer, Matthew Smith in the handicap hurdle. The winner was always prominent, avoiding a nasty incident when ‘Agetawayout’ fell when in front before three from home, bringing down ‘Raleagh Flor’ and ‘Wherethewindblows’ rider being unseated. The winner, previously with Noel Meade, overcame a long absence to score on his debut for the trainer.
Smith said: “He’s a horse that wouldn’t show you a whole lot at home, he’s quite lazy at home, so it’s hard to judge him. That’s why we threw the cheek pieces on him. Obviously, it is his first run for a long time and we’ll see how he comes out of that.”
The handicap chase, won by the Dot Love trained, ‘Bridge Native’, partnered by Conor Orr, had a dramatic conclusion. ‘Benefit Run’ had every chance when second at the penultimate fence, only to land and veer violently left, then with no reason, again dived left, crashing through the wing at the final fence.
Assistant trainer, Ciaran Murphy said: “She seems to have improved with age. She was giving us those sort of vibes at home and she had a cracking run on the flat a week ago. She is not going to be covered next year, she is going to be coming back into training. There’s plenty in her. She has been good to us and we don’t want to do the wrong thing by her now.”