Tennis Cap proves more than a match for Cork rivals
Former Cheltenham Festival runner-up Tennis Cap edged out former stablemate Val De Ferbet to prove an appropriate winner for Willie Mullins in yesterday's 'To Train A Cheltenham Winner At Coral.ie Hurdle' at Cork.
Second only to Ted Veale in the 2013 Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle, Tennis Cap has struggled to match that form over fences in the interim, but the nine-year-old showed glimpses of his best on his return to the smaller obstacles.
The Mullins-trained evens favourite and Val De Ferbet (now trained by Andrew McNamara) went clear of the two other runners from some way out and the pair jumped three out upsides each other.
Mikey Fogarty then asked Tennis Cap to go through the gears and Val De Ferbet - having his first outing since last summer - struggled to go with him. The market leader was well in command at the final flight, although his main rival did keep going and closed to within a length and three-quarters at the line.
John Joe Walsh's string has been in fine fettle of late and Sonny B (4/1) continued the veteran Doneraile handler's good run by landing the three-mile handicap hurdle.
Up 7lb for his recent Thurles success, Sonny B was always travelling well for Brian O'Connell who sent the Walsh inmate into the lead at the last en route to beating Knockraha Pylon by five lengths, adding to his trainer's Limerick hat-trick on Sunday.
Gordon Elliott warmed up for his biggest-ever raid on Prestbury Park by sending out Walkabout to victory in the opening maiden hurdle.
The 6/4 chance headed 6/5 favourite Summerhill Lewis two out and although that rival tried to rally, Kevin Sexton's mount was always holding him and prevailed by half a length.
John 'Shark' Hanlon's Stowaway Shark justified favouritisim in the two -and-half-mile maiden hurdle in the hands of Adrian Heskin but not in the manner of a 4/7 hotpot as he battled to two and three-quarter lengths success from Gran Cavallo.
Ahead of his big Cheltenham ride on Minella Rocco in the four-miler today, Derek O'Connor got the perfect send-off as he partnered Paul Deegan's Papa's Way (4/1) to a two-length victory from Stolberg in the Qualified Riders Handicap Hurdle.