Friday 24 February 2017

Cork double and trouble for Russell

Damien McElroy

Davy Russell has been handed a four-day suspension. Photo: Getty Images
Davy Russell has been handed a four-day suspension. Photo: Getty Images

Title-chasing jockey Davy Russell suffered mixed fortunes yesterday at Cork where he rode a double on the card but was also handed a four-day suspension.

Russell was given the ban, along with Robbie Power, after both appeared to anticipate a false start prior to the Follow Us On Twitter Maiden Hurdle.

Russell on Crude and Power on Stop At Nothing sat still as the tapes went up and although a stewards enquiry was called into the starting procedure, the stewards judged that the starter, Philip Lafarge, had affected a fair start.

A frustrated Power said: "We are told to walk into the start, and if you charge the tape you'll get suspended. But they were going at half-speed towards the tape and yet the starter let them go."

Russell did at least get some compensation as he took his tally to 34 winners for the season, nine behind joint leaders Paul Carberry and Andrew McNamara in the jockeys' title race.

His first winner came via the Charles Byrnes-trained Knockfierna, which impressed in the mares novice hurdle. "She did it well, it was a good performance giving a nice bit of weight to the second," said Russell.

Russell's brace was completed on Tony Martin's 11/2 shot Le Marquis, which barely came off the bridle in the 19-furlong handicap hurdle.

It turned out to be a frustrating day for champion trainer Willie Mullins, whose odds-on favourite Dare To Doubt looked the likely winner of the opening maiden hurdle only to lose out to 4/1 shot Foildubh. Then his stablemate, Sicilian Secret had to play second fiddle to Peter Fahey's 7/4 favourite Shop DJ.

Meanwhile, for the first time in the eight years of Horse Racing Ireland's awards, there was a shared accolade when votes of the 80 members of the racing and sporting media could not split Jessica Harrington and Katie Walsh in the outstanding achievement category.

Harrington -- currently responsible for the season's leading juvenile, Pathfork -- and Walsh, who won on both her mounts at the Cheltenham Festival, were delighted to share the limelight in the Leopardstown Pavilion.

hero

It was this country's latest Queen Mother Champion Chase hero, Big Zeb, which was named Horse of the Year for Gorey, Co Wexford, owner Pat Redmond and his local trainer Colm Murphy.

"We always knew there was a big day in him and it was great to get it at Cheltenham," Redmond said. "The plan is to run here in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase after Christmas and hopefully defend the title next March at Cheltenham."

While there were no surprises where the National Hunt and Point-to-Point voting was concerned -- Mullins registering back-to-back triumphs and record-breaking Derek O'Connor collecting a fourth "points" trophy -- Kildare's Michael Halford came out on top for the Flat award ahead of champion trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Those attending the function gave a standing ovation to RTE broadcaster Colm Murray as he made his way to the stage to receive the latest Contribution to the Industry accolade from HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh, who hailed him as "a raconteur extraordinaire, punter and owner".

Diagnosed in March with a serious illness, Murray, who enjoyed seven victories under both codes with the Willie Mullins-trained Sambara, was surrounded by RTE colleagues as he recalled memorable highlights in the course of his working and racing life.

Across the Irish Sea, Robert 'Choc' Thornton recorded his first winner since coming back from injury when Jetnova struck in the novice hurdle at Plumpton yesterday and he then proceeded to complete a double for trainer Alan King with Irish Independent Arkle Trophy hope Medermit.

"That was great and I've missed that," said the jockey. "I rushed Medermit into the fourth-last a bit but he kept his head up and he picked himself up."

Thornton was sidelined for five months after a horrific fall at Newton Abbot in July, but he showed his strength in the saddle remains very much intact by driving outsider Jetnova to a hard-earned victory.

The Peterborough Chase has been saved and will be run at Newbury tomorrow following Sunday's late abandonment at Huntingdon. The Grade Two contest will form part of an eight-race card.

Irish Independent

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