Mangan keeps it in family as class Boy comes of age
MEMORIES of his late father Paddy's 1981 Thyestes Chase triumph with June's Friend were fresh in Cork trainer Jimmy Mangan's mind after his heavily supported Whinstone Boy triumphed yesterday at Gowran Park.
Enterprisingly ridden up front by 21-year-old Sean Flanagan, the 5/1 second favourite pulled steadily away from Siegemaster in the straight and then withstood the late surge of Hangover at the muddy Kilkenny venue.
Generally available around 12/1 in the morning, the lightly weighted Whinstone Boy sent his three Belfast owners home very happy; as well as Conna-based Mangan and Wexford native Flanagan, who also guided Penny's Bill to a 50/1 surprise win in the Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown almost a year ago.
The Clonroche pilot went agonisingly close to recording a dream treble during the biggest jumps fixture of the year at Gowran, as he'd forced Carnbridge up close home to land the preceding handicap hurdle and later failed by only a neck aboard Borolee against Ard Agus Fada in the Jackpot finale.
Still, it could have been a different scenario for Mangan and Flanagan as Whinstone Boy's participation in the Tendrleen-sponsored highlight was only confirmed by Horse Racing Ireland shortly before the declaration deadline.
"Naturally I'm thrilled to have followed my father on to the Thyestes roll of honour, but it was a close call as it was about three minutes before the race closed on Wednesday morning that I knew we would get in off a nice mark rather than having to run him instead in the Galmoy Hurdle," a relieved Mangan explained.
"This fellow is weak of his tendons and that's why the heavy ground suits him so well. His owners, who shared in our 2003 Grand National success with Monty's Pass, have been very patient and it's paid off today.
"The horse is a nine-year-old now and the plan has been that we'll be heading over to Aintree in April as his owners love it there. If he doesn't make the cut in the National, we'd run him in the Topham Chase," he added.
On yesterday's evidence, Whinstone Boy has the ability to adapt to the unique Aintree obstacles as he outjumped Siegemaster three out and again at the last where Hangover was finishing well to divide this front-running pair.
"If they had gone quicker it would have suited Hangover better, but in fairness the ground was bad and I'm very happy the way Hangover stayed on well. He could be one for the Irish Grand National," remarked trainer Conor O'Dwyer.
Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O'Leary, whose Hangover and Siegemaster ran such fine races, had better luck earlier as 5,700 spectators saw War Of Attrition put his rivals to the sword in the Galmoy Hurdle.
Fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Mouse Morris, the 2006 Gold Cup hero showed the benefit of returning to the smaller obstacles when springing a 6/1 surprise by reversing Leopardstown placings with Powerstation.
"He loved it out in front and the cheekpieces helped. He travelled well and was really enjoying himself," was Niall Madden's verdict after the 11-year-old made it 13 career wins for prize money in excess of €700,000.
The Presenting gelding's belated return to the winner's enclosure clearly meant a lot to Fethard trainer Morris, whose purchase of salt to keep his gallops functioning during the big freeze paid off once more.
"That's five winners from last weekend between the track and point-to-points so it's been well worth the expense. But I haven't had as much pleasure out of it since this fellow won the Gold Cup," he enthused.
"The plan all along has been for one more run before we retire him with the Grand National the target rather than the Ladbrokes World Hurdle back at Cheltenham, so we'll have to see what happens now," Morris pointed out.
It was a good day at the office too for champion trainer Willie Mullins as he recorded a treble with expected wins for hotpots Secant Star and Paul Kristian sandwiching the splendid seasonal return of Uimhiraceathair.
Fears that the going was too deep for the Old Vic gelding to be fully effective were confounded when Ruby Walsh sent him clear from the last after a slick round of jumping in the Stallion Farms Novice Chase.
The eight-year-old looks a horse to follow for the remainder of the season and that observation applies equally to youthful stable companion Secant Star in the wake of the French import's initial success here.
Those tempted to trade at prohibitive odds about Walsh's mount making amends for their final-flight tumble when well clear at Leopardstown never had a moment's anxiety in the opening Ballyhane Stud Maiden Hurdle.
"He looked to be doing things easily there and we will be stepping him up to a Graded race somewhere next month," said locally based Mullins of this potentially serious contender for Triumph Hurdle honours at Cheltenham.