Rubi lights way in Durkan
RUBI Light thrust himself into the Lexus Chase picture with an immensely authoritative display to secure the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown yesterday.
Having crashed out at the last fence with a Grade Two at his mercy at Gowran Park in October, his five-length victory in heavy ground here was fitting retribution. It was also a deserved result for trainer Robbie Hennessy, who had to swerve two intended targets in the meantime when his six-year-old suffered a viral infection.
Hennessy's patience paid off in spades, as Rubi Light, with his bang in-form regular rider Andrew Lynch back in the saddle, led from halfway to deliver the Ratoath-based handler his second Grade One success.
"Andrew said he'd come on for that," Hennessy reported afterwards. "The horse was sick, but he had been working great for the last two weeks, and he loves that ground."
As Lynch stretched the field on the 5/2 joint-favourite turning out of the back, it was fellow market leader Joncol and Tranquil Sea that gave chase.
While the latter's run soon petered out, Joncol plugged on for second without really threatening, as Cooldine trailed in a further 29 lengths back in third after Roi Du Mee fell at the last.
"The Lexus will tell us if he's a Gold Cup horse or a Ryanair horse," Hennessy added of Rubi Light, which is owned his father Bill. "It would be great to have a Gold Cup horse, but we'll wait and see. He's a nice horse to have around the place."
Paddy Power cut Rubi Light to 8/1 from 14/1 for the Ryanair, a race he finished third in at Cheltenham last March. The same firm trimmed him to 25/1 for the Gold Cup, while he is now 4/1 for the Lexus on December 28.
Following Denman's retirement, the Leopardstown showpiece lost another contender here when reigning Irish Hennessy Gold Cup hero Kempes suffered a fatal fall five-out.
Earlier, Jim Culloty's Lord Windermere (4/1) ground out a head victory over favourite Dylan Ross in the Listed novice hurdle. One of a handful of potentially smart horses that the Churchtown trainer has produced of late, Lord Windermere kept finding from the last flight to narrowly claim the €22,750 prize under Tom Doyle.
"He is a slow learner but he has got an engine," Culloty said of the Dr Ronan Lambe-owned five-year-old. "He is in a Grade One at Christmas but that is probably going to come too soon. We will try and find something on a bit of nice ground in February."
Dylan Ross was bidding to complete a quick double for Noel Meade and Paul Carberry after Please Talk, third in a Fairyhouse bumper on its debut in November, justified market support to make most in the maiden hurdle. Sporting JP McManus's colours, this one was backed from 4/1 into 5/2 favouritism and scored accordingly.
"He'll go for a novice hurdle in about a month's time," Meade said. "I was very disappointed he got beaten in his bumper the first day."
Kyle's Turn's triumph in the handicap hurdle provided Antrim-based John Ross with his first win of the campaign. Ruby Walsh looked to have conjured a perfectly-timed run out of his father Ted's That'll Do Me when he led shortly after the final flight, but Eddie O'Connell's mount rallied to shade the verdict by a head.
The Walshes soon gained compensation when 7/4 favourite Seabass kept on to take the handicap chase, with the beginners' equivalent going the way of Crash in the Gigginstown Stud colours. Adrian Heskin overcame briefly losing an iron two-out on Michael Hourigan's six-year-old to reel in long-time leader Quietly Fancied late on.
"If we could get a clear run with him he could be a nice horse," Hourigan stated of the 7/2 shot. "He'll go to Limerick next for a winners-of-one."