Barry Connell may yet have to wait until Christmas to see Our Conor race over jumps in his colours after the stunning Triumph Hurdle winner met with a setback following his run on the Flat at Naas last month, but you suspect he left the same Kildare track a happy man on Saturday.
In the beginners' chase, Connell's Foxrock made an eye-catching fencing debut for Ted Walsh when second to Road To Riches over an inadequate two-mile-three-furlong trip. A point-to-point and three-mile hurdle winner, he should progress into a decent novice in the coming months.
Even more satisfying for Connell will have been manner in which The Tullow Tank thwarted the odds-on Turnandgo in the maiden hurdle.
Having got stuck behind a wall of horses in the straight, Danny Mullins eventually managed to extricate his mount approaching the last flight, but defeat looked inevitable as he was still only fifth on touching down there. However, the five-year-old quickened smartly to swoop past the dual bumper-winning favourite.
The Tullow Tank – which was part-owned by the man he is named after, Sean O'Brien of Ireland and Leinster rugby fame, when he finished second in a point-to-point for Sam Curling in March 2012 – is a smashing prospect that is now to be aimed at Fairyhouse's Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle on December 1.
His victory also served as another reminder of Philip Fenton's largely unheralded skills. One of the most decorated amateur riders of his era, Fenton hasn't been training quite 10 years, but time and again he has shown tremendous proficiency when he is given the right material.
Moreover, the 47-year-old has frequently bounced back from setbacks that threatened to stymie his Carrick-on-Suir stable's progress.
In 2008, when he was first making a name for himself on the track, his then leading patron withdrew all of his horses from the yard and sent them elsewhere.
Later that year, Fenton produced Dunguib and by the end of the campaign his classy Presenting gelding – a sales reject – had routed the Champion Bumper field to provide him with a first Cheltenham Festival success as a trainer.
A dual Grade One-winning novice hurdler, Dunguib then suffered a leg injury that has kept him off the track for two-and-a-half years.
Soon after Dunguib got injured, Gigginstown Stud's Last Instalment announced himself as a serious long-term Gold Cup contender, landing a pair of Grade One races to complete an unbeaten run of four over fences in February 2012.
Then, he got a leg injury, and, while Fenton is hoping that both horses might finally be fit to return to action around Christmas, they will hardly be quite the forces of old.
A year after Last Instalment last ran, the JP McManus-owned Venture Capital, another really exciting novice hurdler by Presenting, fell in front at the last flight in a decent race at Thurles. Sadly, Venture Capital never got up, but you can't keep a good man down. In recent weeks, the enduringly popular Fenton, one of racing's most affable individuals, has again begun running some lovely young horses, with Gigginstown's Band Of Blood and The Tullow Tank the two with the most obvious star potential right now.
All the while, the redoubtable Michael Dempsey-owned Caim Hill, second over fences at Limerick yesterday, has kept doing his thing, scoring for a 13th time for the stable when landing its fourth Flat win at Listowel in September.
In short, despite eight winners last term constituting Philip Fenton's worst return since he got going, the Kilfinane, Co Limerick native's capacity to overcome adversity and seemingly emerge stronger for it knows no bounds.
Presumably that's part of the reason why people of the calibre of McManus, Connell and Michael O'Leary are permanent fixtures on his list of clients.
SUCCESS AT LIMERICK
La Femme Blanche ran out a game winner of the handicap hurdle at Limerick yesterday to give Mark Enright a victory on his first day back in the saddle after fracturing three vertebrae in his back at Kilbeggan in July.
The reigning champion conditional's three-and-a-half-length verdict on the grey mare, a 14/1 shot, means that he is no longer eligible to claim an allowance.
As Enright joins the fully fledged ranks, La Femme Blanche's success was also a notable triumph for 34-year-old Tipperary-based trainer Aidan Fogarty, who was saddling his first winner since taking over from his father Joe.
MORRIS TAKING NO RISKS WITH RULE THE WORLD
Mouse Morris is to target the Hatton's Grace Hurdle with Rule The World after his classy six-year-old was ruled out of yesterday's Lismullen Hurdle on Saturday evening.
Rule The World – owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud – returned from a serious pelvis injury to win a Naas last month, but he will now go straight for the Fairyhouse Grade One after meeting with a setback.
"It's unfortunate he couldn't run, but that's the way the cards are dealt," Morris said. "He has just got a bit of an infection in a leg. If it was another horse you might take the chance and run it, but with him we don't want to take any chances. It could be worse, after what happened to him at Punchestown every day is a bonus. He'll go to Fairyhouse now for the Hatton's Grace."
The withdrawal of Rule The World made little difference to his intended partner Davy Russell, who duly switched to Tony Martin's Dedigout which duly landed the Lismullen for the O'Leary camp.
NICHOLLS LANDS FRENCH GRADE ONE WITH PTIT ZIG
Paul Nicholls' Far West could manage only second behind Melodic Rendezvous in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday, but the former champion trainer plundered a French Grade One with four-year-old Ptit Zig (41/10) at Auteuil yesterday.
David Cottin's mount, which finished second to Mullins' Saturday Naas winner Diakali in the French Triumph Hurdle at the Parisian track back in June, won going away in the manner of a smart horse on his seasonal reappearance.
Nicholls' novice chasers were also in rude health on Saturday, with Wonderful Charm and Hinterland scoring at Wincanton and Sandown, respectively. Hinterland, three times a runner-up in good company over fences last year, looked to have Grandouet held when he slightly hampered Nicky Henderson's debutant at the last, causing Barry Geraghty to get unseated.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND
Limerick leading the way for jockeys at Irish racecourses. Fair play and thanks
– Ruby Walsh posts a picture (below) of the specials board in the jockeys' room at Limerick, with the €3 Shepherd's Pie the cause of his appreciation. By way of explanation, Walsh followed up by stating: "1st time an Irish racecourse has offered us a hot food. Value too!!!''
4Where Mekong River finished in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud on Saturday. The Ballydoyle colt cut out some of the early running in the 10-furlong Group One, but was swatted aside by some 12 lengths when Prince Of Gibraltar swooped home under Christophe Soumillon.
45 Age of the Australian jockey Desiree Gill, who tragically died after suffering head injuries in a fall at a Sunshine Coast meeting on Saturday. Gill had worked in racing for 30 years, and rode four winners at Bundaberg on Melbourne Cup day. She is survived by her husband Barry and two sons.