Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 21 January 2018

Chief leads way for Connacht National repeat

Smullen: On the mark at Roscommon. Photo: Cody Glen/ Sportsfile
Smullen: On the mark at Roscommon. Photo: Cody Glen/ Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

On a night when the final two Flat races at Roscommon had to be scrapped, Aranhill Chief dug deep to capture the featured Connacht National Handicap Chase for the second consecutive year.

The Stephen Mahon-trained nine-year-old - which finished a well-beaten sixth in the Mayo National at Ballinrobe a fortnight ago - was quickly sent into the lead by Kevin Sexton, but relinquished the early initiative to Heaney after making a mistake.

Aranhill Chief regained the lead setting out on the final circuit, and while he was pressed by joint favourite Sit Abbott after the second last, the 14/1 outsider battled on doggedly to prevail by just over a length, with Mr Diablo back in third.

Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power claimed a short-priced double in the two novice chases, courtesy of Gambling Girl and Sandymount Duke.

Chatham House Rule was 4/7 favourite to land the two-mile version for Gordon Elliott but he couldn't live with Gambling Girl (7/4) up the home straight. In the finale, over two and a half miles, Sandymount Duke easily justified his billing as 4/9 favourite.

The decision to run only three of the five scheduled Flat contests came after several riders reported their horses had slipped on the bends.

Clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer explained: "A number (of jockeys) expressed concerns and reported their horses had slipped on various bends so it has been decided that the remaining Flat races have been abandoned."

Earlier, Andrew Slattery combined with Billy Lee to land the opening juvenile maiden over seven furlong with the impressive Branch Line (7/2).

The son of Rip Van Winkle is likely to take a sizeable leap in class later this season after he stormed a length and three-quarters clear. Slattery said: "He's as good as I've ever had and is the only two-year-old that could work with (Listed-winning stablemate) An Saighdiur and go away from him.

"He's 16.2 hands high and is as big as a National Hunt horse. I'll take my time with him for a while, but I'm going to have a crack at the National Stakes as I think there's more to come."

The in-form pair of Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen continued their winning ways as Munaashid justified comfortably took the 10-furlong maiden.

The even-money favourite was pushed into the lead by Smullen approaching the final furlong and kept on well to beat Benny Pare by two and a half lengths.

Irish Independent

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