Saturday 25 March 2017

Planet proves top raider as Denman gets 'left' behind

Damien McElroy

Planet Of Sound rather than wayward fellow English raider Denman spoiled last evening's farewell party for Punchestown specialist War Of Attrition as a crowd in excess of 17,000 witnessed an exciting Guinness Gold Cup.

Philip Hobbs, who has been scoring regularly at recent festivals, upstaged both the War Of Attrition yard and fellow Somerset handler Paul Nicholls, whose favourite Denman gave Tony McCoy a nightmare spin.

Hanging and jumping violently left throughout the final circuit, Denman was fighting a losing battle from the back straight as Richard Johnson seized the initiative from Cooldine with War Of Attrition getting into contention.

Rounding the last bend, the winner and Cooldine were still calling the tune as Davy Russell closed on the eventual second which ran the proverbial blinder on his favoured good ground for a splendid swan song.

"It was the wrong decision to go right-handed with Denman and we won't be doing that again. It was a shame really as you're not going to win at this level doing that" remarked a chastened Nicholls.

"AP (McCoy) said he would have won a minute going the other way round, he has got to go left-handed these days, it is as pure and simple as that."

For colleague Hobbs, it was as much a relief as anything else that the 14/1 victor bounced back from a dismal effort in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham to enjoy the most significant success of his career.

"When he won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter I thought he was going to have a very good season and then we might have beaten Albertas Run giving him weight at Ascot only for a bad mistake."

"He choked at Cheltenham and we put a tongue tie on him here. I'm chuffed to bits as it was his first start over three miles and he stayed on very well. He's been a forgotten horse and we can dream all summer now."

Gallant

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary paid tribute to his gallant runner-up War Of Attrition. "As long as I own racehorses we'll never repeat his Gold Cup double at Cheltenham and here in 2006. Apart from the birth of my children, this horse has given me the best days of my life. He'll go hunting in the winter and keep active."

Russell admitted that, for a brief moment in the closing stages, he felt the Mouse Morris stable star would catch Planet of Sound. "I thought I'd get him for a few strides. My fellow was flat out most of the way but kept trying."

While Cooldine's challenge petered out from the final fence after travelling sweetly for Paul Townend, the Willie Mullins bandwagon kept rolling as Sivota turned the opening Martinstown Handicap Hurdle series final into a procession and Polmar emerged best in the Jackpot finale.

Sivota, a heavily supported 7/2 favourite was ridden by Mullins' nephew Emmet, and the six-year-old proved a handicap snip by pulverising his rivals.

"The drying ground was a big help and I'd imagine we'll pursue the handicap route now," Mullins explained.

"We'll mix hurdling and running on the Flat and I'd imagine that Galway will be on the agenda."

Later on, the champion trainer pocketed win number five at the meeting as David Casey steered Polmar (8/1) to success in the handicap chase.

Mullins' Doctor Deejay and Final Approach were both involved in the climax to the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle but the pair finished just second and third to Jessica Harrington's 10/1 chance Gimli's Rock. "He may go back on the Flat and step up to a mile and a half and I wouldn't rule out him going to Galway too," said the Moone trainer.

Augment

Not mapped in the Cheltenham version, Hidden Universe made no mistake in the Paddy Power Champion Bumper for the Dermot Weld stable to augment wins at Leopardstown and Limerick.

"The plan was to dictate or ride the rails and Robbie McNamara can execute those tactics so well. This will be an outstanding dual-purpose horse later this year and into next year. He will be a very useful hurdler and an exceptional Flat horse," Weld said.

Barry Geraghty got onto the festival scoreboard in the Madra Dog Food Novice Hurdle when deputising for the injured Andrew McNamara aboard the busy 6/1 chance Rigour Back Bob.

None the worse off for his Fairyhouse outing earlier in the month behind Magnanimity in the mud over a shorter trip, Edward O'Grady's charge was much more at home over three miles on a sounder surface.

Tracking runner-up Arabella Boy into the straight, Geraghty's mount soon asserted for his fourth novice hurdle win of the season as the combined effects of a penalty and drier going told on third home Magnanimity.

"He doesn't really like heavy ground but we had to run him the last day and this has suited him better," said O'Grady.

"He has been a model of consistency and has won four races this season and not been beaten far in the other two.

"He will jump a fence but is only a five-year-old and I'd like to give him another year over hurdles. I think he could make a good staying hurdler next season."

On The Fringe (12/1) provided Enda Bolger with his second winner of the week when he struck for owner JP McManus under John Thomas McNamara in the Brian Price Memorial Champion Hunters Chase.

Irish Independent

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