Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 24 February 2018

O'Brien set to bounce back on Easterby sprinter Aetna

Joseph O’Brien takes a tumble from Marchese Marconi in the Gleesons Butchers Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Joseph O’Brien takes a tumble from Marchese Marconi in the Gleesons Butchers Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Joseph O'Brien endured an ignominious exit over flights yesterday but he can return to winning ways on the Flat at Cork today aboard Mick Easterby's Aetna.

While the dual champion jockey was always likely to have learning experiences as he explores the jumps discipline, it was unfortunate for him that his first fall came in the glare of the live terrestrial television spotlight from Fairyhouse.

On just his second ride over hurdles aboard his father Aidan's Marchese Marconi, the 21-year-old did absolutely everything right until taking one hand off the reins in an effort to strike his mount on take-off at the final flight.

However, Marchese Marconi put down and hit the hurdle, and O'Brien simply couldn't regain his balance with just one hand on the reins.

It was a galling experience as victory looked assured, but he can take comfort in the knowledge that he had done everything well up until that point.

This afternoon, O'Brien is pencilled in for two of Easterby's raiders on a mixed card at the Mallow venue. Be Lucky might not be suited by the deep ground in the five-furlong handicap, but Aetna will relish the prevailing conditions in the Listed race over six.

As ever, this €45,000 event is highly competitive, with the last two winners, An Saighdiur and Bold Thady Quill, both among the seven-strong line-up. There are others with chances as well, but Aetna has the scope to develop into a cracking sprinter this year, especially when there is plenty of cut in the ground.

A York handicap winner off a mark of 92, the Indesatchel five-year-old signed off on 2014 with a commanding triumph in similar conditions to this at Doncaster last November.

If she can replicate that level of performance here, she should be hard to beat, and it's worth noting that she has won on each of her two previous seasonal reappearances.

In the preceding handicap that Be Lucky contests, Tommy Stack and Billy Lee get the nod to collect with the unexposed Barbeque. This is a wide-open 14-runner affair, with Harry Rogers' October course winner La Canaada possibly one of the main threats to the selection.

However, Barbeque appeared as though she was going the right way when last seen here on the very same day, just getting denied a nose by Apache Gold over a furlong further.

The Elusive City mare is in here off an unchanged mark of 56, so she is fancied to have a big say from stall six. In the four-runner juveniles' maiden over the same trip, a chance is taken on Pat Shanahan's newcomer Lilliard, a €190,000 Shamardal foal that has a decent pedigree.

The day's nap vote goes to Robert Tyner's Pause And Ponder in the Pegus Horse Feeds Point-to-point Bumper. On its track bow at Gowran Park last month, this Oscar six-year-old drew a long way clear of the rest when second to Willie Mullins' Yorkhill, so there is a good chance that he is a pretty smart animal.

The six-year-old Kilfeacle point-to-point winner is the only one of the nine runners with track experience, and the suspicion is that he will put that to use under Gerry Mangan now.

Kinsale-based Tyner, one of the point-to-point circuit's most dominant handlers, could also have a big say in the mares' equivalent with Joint Reaction, while his Millie Decourcey should go close in the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Mares' Hunters Chase.

Second to stable-mate Simple Steps in the mares' final at Ballynoe, James Carroll's mount has as progressive a profile as any of her rivals.

In the hunters' chase dedicated to the memory of Tyner and his wife Mary's late son Jack, the stable rely on Pay The Bounty.

Carroll's consistent partner has a chance, but Paul Nolan's Noble Prince sets a tall standard. The 11-year-old former Cheltenham Festival winner wasn't disgraced in the Foxhunters last month. He had previously won two points without any fuss, so he is the one to beat.

At Cork yesterday, On His Own put Roi De Mee firmly in his place with an easy victory in the Imperial Call Chase.

The duo fought out the Grade Two contest over three miles from a long way out, but Willie Mullins' 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up had too much class for his in-form rival and steadily pulled clear through the closing stages.

The 9/10 favourite gained the upper hand two fences from home under David Casey and was not hard-pressed to account for Roi De Mee by 15 lengths, with the runner-up only just holding on for second from Letter Of Credit.

Casey, whose mount finished a creditable fifth to Coneygree when he tackled the Gold Cup again last month, said: "He was well-in at the weights and seemed in good enough form. He might be one for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, but I don't know what Willie might have in his head."

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