Damien McElroy's Race Reads: Day 4
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
A breakneck gallop set by Tom O'Brien on the outsider Barizan set the cat among the pigeons as the vast majority of the field, with the exception of Soldatino and Alaivan, were unable to get competitive.
Mind you, it was only on the stiff climb to the post that a hard-driven Soldatino reeled in the Welsh raider, whose prospects of holding onto his advantage were not helped by an untidy jump at the final flight.
At that stage Alaivan's best efforts could only earn him third-place money, even if he managed to reverse Leopardstown form after Christmas with the favourite Carlito Brigante, which was nearest at the finish in fourth.
2.05 Vincent O'Brien Handicap Hurdle
The Irish were back in business in earnest here after a blank Thursday as Katie Walsh came thundering home with Thousand Stars to deny former festival winner Arcalis, which finished best of the remainder.
Biding her time in a huge field, the stylish amateur stayed out of trouble before creeping into contention rounding the last bend and taking over from the last as Dee Ee Williams came with a good run on the stands rails.
2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
The best-backed horses were obliterated in the closing stages here as the softening ground took its toll and the finish only concerned outsiders Berties Dream and Najaf after Restless Harry exited when tired at the last.
Fourth-placed Arvika Ligeonniere flattered on the home turn as Andrew Lynch got the 33/1 winner into top gear and Najaf, which had travelled the better of the pair, was put into the race by Timmy Murphy.
On the run-in, however, it was Paul Gilligan's first festival runner that produced the pace to settle the issue and improve on his good effort here last November when third to Tell Massini over a shorter trip.
3.20 Totesport Gold Cup
The display of a true champion as locally based Imperial Commander enhanced his marvellous strike-rate over the course and, in company with fellow Irish-bred Denman, sorted the remainder out and, indeed, had defending champion Kauto Star already beaten when exiting four out.
Carruthers and Denman made it a sensible pace on going with definite ease at this stage and the tempo only increased on the final circuit when Tony McCoy asked the runner-up to take command before the 16th fence.
Right behind them heading down to three out, Imperial Commander was basically cantering and Cooldine, which was beginning to be ridden along, was the only other in with any prospect of outright victory.
Rounding the last bend the writing was on the wall for the remarkably resilient Denman, despite McCoy's frantic efforts to hold the inner as Paddy Brennan got the new champion into overdrive.
The destination of the spoils was now done and dusted, despite McCoy switching outside before the last and, with Cooldine and Carruthers struggling to get up the hill, last year's Aintree hero Mon Mome overtook them for third money.
4.0 Christie's Foxhunter Chase
A splendid follow-up for the Gold Cup-winning yard, as last year's Punchestown scorer Baby Run (pictured above) set and maintained a relentless gallop that most of the opposition simply could not live with.
The French-bred was tracked in the last mile by both Reach For The Top, which could not sustain his effort in the closing stages, and mud-loving Kilty Storm, whose rider took the shortest way round.
From the last bend there was no catching Baby Run despite the horse looking leg-weary on the run-in and as Kilty Storm, likewise, could find no more.
4.40 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle
This cavalry charge was dominated from the second last by Pause And Clause, despite being rated near the top of the scale, keeping up the pressure on his rivals under a determined drive by Dublin-born Johnny Farrelly.
The placed horses, Radium and Clova Island, could not match the winner's pace from the final flight as Lord Generous failed to quicken also and the always-prominent Quentin Collonges began to flounder.
5.15 Grand Annual Handicap Chase
This devolved into a duel from the last between bottom weight Pigeon Island for the rampant Nigel Twiston-Davies yard and French Opera, third in the race a year ago, but obliged to shoulder 11-12 on this occasion.
For quite a while at the business end, French Opera was keeping all-comers at bay, including persistent challenger Consigliere. Cornas was delivered late, as was Pigeon Island, which made a final triumphant thrust to steal the spoils.