Ferbert Junior calls the shots
FRENCH bred Ferbet Junior and the season's leading rider Barry Geraghty took no prisoners in the Powers Gold Label Champion Chase at Gowran Park yesterday as they made all the running to claim some notable scalps including that of former Cheltenham hero Imperial Call.
Found subsequently to be lame of his off-fore by the Turf Club vet, the easy to back favourite Imperial Call was eased right down by Conor O'Dwyer when his chance of catching the trail-blazing Ferbet Junior had clearly gone in the closing stages of the £32,000 Powers promotion.
Now the winner of eight races worth £80,000, Ferbet Junior delighted trainer Jessica Harrington and Cheltenham based joint-owner David Attwood by jumping and galloping his three rivals into submission to book a possible crack at the £100,000 Ulster Champion Chase at Down Royal next month.
``I got brave this morning and put him in the £100,000 race at Down Royal. Ferbet Junior gets on well with Barry Geraghty and a racecourse school at Punchestown recently helped his fitness level,'' Mrs Harrington remarked.
Tracked all the way to the home straight by Imperial Call, which drifted out to evens and badly needed the outing according to trainer Raymond Hurley, Mrs Harrington's 9/4 second favourite was never in danger of defeat despite the late challenge of rank outsider Amberleigh House.
``Barry said that Ferbet Junior gave a heave at the end of the back straight, but picked up well and quickened when the others started to get after him heading to the straight. Apart from the spin at Punchestown, we have only been exercising him in the loose school at home since he won at Punchestown last April,'' Mrs Harrington added.
Barry Geraghty is certainly riding at the top of his form, and indeed doubled up quickly for another lady trainer, Frances Crowley, aboard Lodge Hill in the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle to extend his lead in the championship table.
Barry enjoyed his best season with forty winners last term, but is already on the 23-winner mark for the current campaign and, barring accidents, the 20-year-old Meath rider will take some catching.
Both His Song, which pleased new partner Adrian Maguire by jumping well, and Imperial Call looked in need of the run on paddock inspection.
His Song was an intended runner in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, but trainer Mouse Morris may wait a while longer before bringing the horse back to England.
Imperial Call remains on target for Down Royal according to trainer Hurley: ``I thought he would run a bit better than that. The fast gallop set and maintained by the winner found him out fitness-wise.''
Geraghty wasn't the only jockey to double up at the opening session of the Kilkenny Racing Festival, as Kevin Manning forced Plurabelle in front in the dying strides of the opener before another of Jim Bolger's runners, Dolydille, readily defied her Cork penalty in the next.