Sunday 18 February 2018

Kilcooley shows staying power to take honours at Wetherby

Kilcooley, with Richard Johnson up, on their way to victory at Wetherby
Kilcooley, with Richard Johnson up, on their way to victory at Wetherby

Ashley Iveson

Kilcooley shaped like a staying hurdler to be reckoned with during the winter months with a determined display in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby.

Winner of the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell in February but disappointing in France the following month, Charlie Longsdon's six-year-old made his first start since in this Grade Two event.

Richard Johnson positioned the 5/1 shot close to the speed from the off and gradually wound up the gallop, seemingly intent on making sure it was a major test of stamina.

Harry Fry's 2012 Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby, tackling the three-mile distance for the first time, looked to have plenty to offer at the top of the home straight under Noel Fehily, but his effort eventually petered out as Kilcooley passed the post with 13 lengths in hand.

Speaking from Ascot, Longsdon said: "That was very impressive and I suppose he will go down the World Hurdle route now. The big question was if he was up to it. It was not a real surprise as the only real issue was whether he would get the trip or not.

"I'd have thought we will go to the Hennessy meeting at Newbury next. He does take his races hard as he puts everything into them but that meeting is a month away so it should be fine."

Fry said of Rock On Ruby: "He ran his heart out but he hated that ground. Noel was very happy with him but the ground went against him. All is not lost, though, and he lives to fight another day."

While out of luck with Rock On Ruby, it was still a good afternoon for his connections as Fry trained a double and Fehily rode a treble to leave the jockey just two short of the magical 1,000-winner mark.

Blue Buttons (2/1 favourite) was much too good for her rivals in the Mares' Hurdle and a career over fences now beckons.

Fehily got the afternoon off to a flyer aboard the Fry-trained Charmix in the opening Watch Racing UK Anywhere Novices' Hurdle. The 5/2 chance looked at the mercy of strong-travelling 11/10 favourite Ennistown early in the home straight, but the market leader found nothing for pressure and Charmix galloped on for a one-and-a-quarter-length success.

The Neil Mulholland-trained Southfield Royale (7/4) jumped his rivals into the ground under Fehily in the Novices' Chase. While 11/8 favourite Zeroeshadesofgrey was hesitant in the jumping department, Southfield Royale devoured his obstacles and there was 20 lengths between them at the line.

Donald McCain enjoyed a welcome winner as 11/1 shot Katachenko claimed the Chase under Wayne Hutchinson.

Having earlier combined to land the Charlie Hall Chase with Cue Card, trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Paddy Brennan completed a double as 9/1 chance Billy No Name emerged victorious in the concluding Racing UK 1 Prince 3 Devices Handicap Hurdle.

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