Naughty step for Yorkhill as Meade's Road gains Respect
Virtually all those who debated what might happen in yesterday's Ryanair Gold Cup referenced the potential for Yorkhill to jump left. Virtually none could have envisaged what happened.
When he had his schooling session at Leopardstown prior to a Cheltenham visit that ultimately emphasised his greatness, the horse's tendency to edge left jumping was notable, even at a left-handed venue. Willie Mullins' charge was so errant in this regard at Fairyhouse that he must have forfeited the guts of 25 lengths.
Ruby Walsh rode a masterclass, letting him stride on but doing his best to negate the damage fence to fence. Yorkhill led after the fourth, but was violently to the left at the next couple, albeit still travelling strongly.
Road To Respect sat tight in second, Bryan Cooper delighted that his horse may not have the favourite's class but at least knew how to do things properly - even if Cooper stated that his mount edged a little left too. However, it appeared that Yorkhill was in command after the second-last, at which he was backed in running at 1/33.
Coming to the last, he hesitated and made another trip to the naughty step inevitable as he almost ran out, clambering over in a cumbersome fashion. He was headed, somehow rallied again, yet could not quite get to neck winner Road To Respect (7/2).
"We thought about running him in the Irish National… we just thought he might need another week," said winning trainer Noel Meade. "The other horse did it all wrong and we benefited. He's obviously a very good horse. We were hoping Willie's horse would do that. All is fair in love and war!"
Winning owner Michael O'Leary hailed Meade. "The best horse finished second but you have to jump them. Usually we struggle to win these Ryanair-sponsored races; normally Willie or JP (McManus) wins them all. Noel has brought him on incredibly well."
Cooper, meanwhile, said that Yorkhill "had me cooked everywhere". Except at the line.
This failure was a blow to Mullins' title hopes, having taken first and second prize in the €100,000 mares' hurdle, Augusta Kate (8/1) shocking Let's Dance under David Mullins.
The young rider, tipped for the top, said: "She's very tough and unassuming. She was on and off it and wasn't jumping the best out of the whole group. As soon as I gave her a squeeze after the third last she jostled for a bit of position and came alive under me."
Trainer Mullins could make no excuses for Let's Dance and there looked to be none for runner-up Don't Touch It in a novice handicap chase dominated by 8/1 Hurricane Ben, trained in Dungourney, Co Cork by James Sheehan.
He brought up a double for Davy Russell, 11/10 favourite Tudor City winning the maiden hurdle after being left clear at the last and seemingly on course for a Galway Hurdle bid for Tony Martin later in the summer.
Cooper's father, Tom, trained Fridaynightlights to finish second at Clonmel recently. The nicely backed 10/1 chance scored in the two-mile handicap hurdle on his first start for Gordon Elliott under Andrew Ring.
The Adrian Murray-trained Killaro Boy scored at 6/1 in the novice chase but the last laugh was left for Meade, who recommended Red Jack to McManus after he won at Naas. The horse (11/8f) oozed class in the €100,000 bumper, now in McManus' silks.