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Niall Cronin: Sandra strikes it Rich at Fairyhouse


Trainer Sandra Hughes with her horse Lieutenant Colonel

Trainer Sandra Hughes with her horse Lieutenant Colonel

Trainer Sandra Hughes with her horse Lieutenant Colonel

All sorts of emotions were experienced at the Fairyhouse Winter Festival over the weekend and we all got to get a close glimpse of the highs and lows sport, and in particular horse racing, has to offer.

Sandra Hughes saddling her first winner since the loss of her late father Dessie was an undoubted high on Saturday and the small crowd in attendance made sure to make their appreciation of the achievement known with a lovely reception for the winner.

Just over 24 hours later and Hughes was enjoying her second winner, and first at Grade One level, and considering this was all at a track which just last month saw Dessie Hughes send out his last winner (and back at the start of his career, sent out his first), it was a special moment and one that obviously meant a huge amount to an awful lot of people.


After Lieutenant Colonel landed the Hattons Grace, Hughes was on to grab a Grade One double with The Tullow Tank, her father's last winner, running in the Drinmore Chase.

Clearly a very good horse, The Tullow Tank was sent off favourite for an extremely competitive renewal of the race, but faded quickly and was 22-lengths behind the winner Valseur Lido.

The run was too bad to be true and while no problem has come to light of yet, tests were carried out and will surely show up something but runs like that can lead to plenty of head-scracthing.

Christmas will be the target to get The Tullow Tank back to his best, providing there is nothing serious amiss. Regardless, Hughes' family did the memory of the man, so often described as a gentleman in the last month, proud.

Rich Ricci will enjoy a lot of success this season, but the leading owner will indeed be looking towards better weekends than the last one proved to be.

Last Thursday it looked like being a big one for Willie Mullins' major owner. Djakadam was declared for the Hennessy Gold Cup and was chalked up as favourite to become the first five-year-old ever to win the prestigious race.

Annie Power was due to line up in the Hattons Grace to start her season off and she was 1/5 to begin with a Grade One win.

Allez Colombieres had never been seen in competitive action on an Irish racecourse or never jumped a hurdle in a race yet he was 6/4 for the Royal Bond on Sunday and 4/1 favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in March. He was also responsible for both bumper favourites at Fairyhouse, both of whom arrived with lofty reputations.

Djakadam failed to defy his inexperience; Annie Power was ruled out of the Hatton's Grace, and possibly until Cheltenham, when found to be lame on Friday morning; and Allez Colombieres never returned from Fairyhouse after being pulled up in the Royal Bond when he broke his pelvis and the bone cut an artery leading to his fatality; also, Zaidpour, who was sent off favourite to land a second Hattons Grace in the absence of Annie Power, fell at the fifth hurdle; and both bumper horses were well beaten.

Kalkir did make an impressive start to life in Ireland in the Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle, though, and knowing you have Vautour and Faugheen to look forward to will ease the pain.

But this racing game is not all plain sailing, even for the likes of owners like Ricci or for those who fancy a flutter in the ante-post markets.