Red-hot Russell comes up trumps in Kempton raid
FRESH from his Navan hat-trick on Sunday, in-form Davy Russell teamed up with Limerick handler Charles Byrnes to plunder a valuable prize on a rare Kempton visit.
The Cork jockey completed the daring cross-channel raid by giving the talented, if somewhat enigmatic, Knockfierna a brilliant waiting ride to claim the Listed OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Byrnes felt he had spotted a loophole in the English programme as this multiple-Graded winner of both novice hurdles and chases was well treated on her return to smaller obstacles after a couple of disappointing outings over fences.
Russell bustled along Knockfierna from a long way out but got the response he wanted and the 11/4 second favourite came two and a half lengths clear of Miss Milborne after the final flight.
While Russell recalled winning a race at the track for Emma Lavelle, it was Byrnes' first Kempton runner.
"The conditions of the race appealed because she's a fair hurdler back in Ireland, but she wasn't penalised for this," said Byrnes, who reported that his long-time absent RSA Chase winner Weapon's Amnesty could run in the Lexus Chase next month.
"Apart from Quevega, she'd be as good as any other mare and if there was a chance she could get in the first half dozen at Cheltenham (in the mares' hurdle), you'd have to consider it.
"The clerk says there is a race back here on December 27 and we'll have a look at that. I wouldn't rule out another run over fences, maybe in the spring."
Around a dozen members of the Knockfierna Syndicate had made the journey across, with their name being taken from a large hill a few miles from Byrnes' stable in Ballingarry.
Byrnes is planning a couple more cross-channel raids, starting with Trifolium, which is heading to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle provided Saturday's fixture beats the weather.
Last season's Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby is among six possibles for the contest, while Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame could also take its chance for trainer John Quinn.
Donald McCain and jockey Jason Maguire – who have taken this prestigious prize for the last two years with Peddlers Cross and Overturn – are represented by Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes.
Nicky Henderson's Darlan is also entered, but the trainer admits that the JP McManus-owned gelding is unlikely to run in very soft ground.
Henderson and McManus had a major setback at Kempton yesterday when their big novice hurdle hope for this season, Snake Eyes, suffered a shock defeat on his debut over flights.
Punters at the track who had supported the Henderson hotpot into 1/5 favourite had their fingers burned as he was forced to play second fiddle to Neil Mulholland's Minella Definitely in the EBF Novices' Hurdle.
Wexford jockey Daryl Jacob got the 20/1 outsider to the line by a neck after a battle from the final flight.
Noel Fehily was another Irish rider on the mark as the Cork native made all the running aboard Charlie Longsdon's Loose Chips in the opening Coolmore NH Sires Handicap Hurdle.
Having landed Saturday's big chase at Ascot with Captain Chris, Philip Hobbs is a trainer who looks to have struck form and the victory of So Fine in the beginners' chase was the middle leg of a 60/1 across-the-card treble.
Tom O'Brien – cousin of champion Flat trainer Aidan – was aboard So Fine, while Richard Johnson was aboard Hobbs' two winners at Ludlow, Carrigmorna King and Return Spring.
Across the Atlantic, there was no joy for Dermot Weld as his Emulous could finish only sixth in Sunday's Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Jeremy Noseda's Grandeur finished second to Unbridled Command in the Hollywood Derby where Weld's Speaking Of Which came last.