ON the eve of being crowned champion conditional jockey Jack Foley got amongst the winners this week as he teamed up with El Barra in the €100,000 EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase.
A sixth Willie Mullins-trained winner of this Grade A contest in the last seven years, El Barra produced an excellent front-running effort. The 8/1 chance jumped superbly and in the closing stages he was always keeping the chasing pack at bay. On what was just his fifth outing over fences he crossed the line half a dozen lengths ahead of Busselton.
Interestingly the winner and the second were part of the four-runner field for the Turners Novice Chase at Cheltenham last month where they filled the minor placings behind Bob Olinger. Busselton actually finished well ahead of the Susannah Ricci-owned El Barra that day but the latter was running just four days after landing a beginner’s chase at Limerick and he turned that form around in emphatic fashion.
“It was a very polished ride from Jack. He’s a very good young rider. He started off with my brother Tom and then we invited him to ride some of our horses and it’s great that he’s going to be crowned champion conditional,” stated Mullins.
The card began with a memorable local success in the Stanley Asphalt Hunters Chase for the Bishopscourt Cup as the Ted Walsh-trained Jezarus gave Clane-born rider Iain Cribbin a winner from his first ride on the track.
In one of the long-standing staples of the Festival, Jezarus (15/2) got the better of the 2018 winner Alpha Male by half a length which resulted in the winner and his rider receiving what was comfortably one of the biggest receptions of the week. Jezarus carries the colours of the successful rider’s father, Peter.
“It’s great for the Cribbin family and I’m delighted for them and Iain who is a lovely fella,” Walsh said. “Races like this and the La Touche yesterday mean so much to people and it’s a wonderful achievement for Iain to ride a winner here. Anyone who has done it knows how much it means. If the horse comes out of this race well I’d say we’ll aim towards this race again next year.”
SCARLET And Dove (3/1) exacted revenge on the odds on Elimay from their meeting at Cheltenham last month with a brave and enthusiastic display in the first running of the Grade 2 Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Chase. Joseph O’Brien’s charge was beaten just over half a length into third in a titanic finish to the mares chase at Cheltenham but it was all change here.
Scarlet And Dove set out to make this four-runner contest a good test by setting a brisk gallop and at a number of fences she seemed to be quicker than Elimay.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned eight-year-old clouted the third last but the favourite was already toiling at this point and Bryan Cooper’s mount stormed clear in the straight to dish out a 15-length beating to her old rival.
“She ran really well at Cheltenham where she missed the last two fences. I’m not saying we felt we would beat Elimay today but we felt we’d give her a good run for her money,” stated Joseph O’Brien. “Bryan gave her a lovely, fantastic positive ride. This mare is now a Grade 2 winner and she’s a big mare so there’s no reason why she can’t be better again next year and I suppose a Grade 1 would be the aim with her going forward.”
Billaway completed a Cheltenham-Punchestown hunter chase double by going one better than he did last year in the Irish Daily Star Champion Hunters Chase for Patrick and Willie Mullins.
This three-mile contest developed into a fascinating duel between the winner and his main market rival Vaucelet, who intriguingly represented the exact same connections of Winger Leader, who Billaway just denied at Cheltenham.
A protracted battle between the pair came down to the last were a crucial mistake from Vaucelet handed the iniative to Billaway. It was a 200th winner of the season for Willie Mullins, a feat he has only achieved twice before and this win was his 12th of the week.