Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 25 March 2018

Pont star of Ruby four-timer

Ruby Walsh and Pont
Alexandre jump the last
clear of Don Cossack to
win the feature at Navan
Ruby Walsh and Pont Alexandre jump the last clear of Don Cossack to win the feature at Navan

Thomas Kelly

After a treble at Cheltenham 24 hours earlier, Ruby Walsh moved on to Navan, where he went one better with a four-timer in which the impressive success of Pont Alexandre proved the highlight.

Having been bought by Willie Mullins after just a maiden hurdle win in France, Pont Alexandre was sent off at 3/1 in the Navan Novice Hurdle against the red-hot favourite Don Cossack, which brought a tall reputation to the race.

However, just like with Mount Benbulben in this race 12 months ago, trainer Gordon Elliott was to suffer a reversal at the hands of a relatively unheralded Mullins runner.

Whereas last year it was Boston Bob, this year Pont Alexandre was the name on the lips of race-goers after making every yard of the running.

Don Cossack was in the process of being caught for second when he jumped the last and appeared to trip up after the flight.

"He could be anything, he's a horse I love.," Mullins said of Pont Alexandre.

"The winners' races are so good, I thought if Don Cossack beats us, then so be it. He looks a real nice prospect for the future. I don't think I've ever started one off in a Grade One before.

"We won't go back in trip but the Deloitte is two-and-a-quarter (miles) so I might do that. He'll probably stay at two-and-a-half and I wouldn't be afraid of three miles.

"He won't go to Leopardstown (at Christmas) – the obvious race would be the Slaney Hurdle at Naas but I think I want to get Champagne Fever ready for that (same owner) so I might just wait an extra few weeks."

Elliott later reported that Don Cossack escaped unscathed, but this fall was Davy Russell's third in three races and he gave up the rest of his rides.

Boston Bob was successful on the same card again, this time on his fencing debut in the EBF Beginners' Chase.

Sent off 1/5 market leader, he was made to work very hard for his victory over Henry de Bromhead's You Must Know Me by half a length.

Paddy Power left him unchanged at 7/1 in their RSA Chase market but Ladbrokes eased him out to 10/1.

"I was delighted with the way he jumped. He'd been a bit careful at home, but today he was brilliant," said Walsh.

"Three miles will probably bring out the best in him. We've always thought he was a hell of a good horse."

Mullins reported that Graham and Andrea Wylie's charge would not be running at Leopardstown over Christmas, while the champion trainer also won the concluding bumper with Union Dues, ridden by his son Patrick, while Walsh's other two winners were for Tony Martin.

The Meath trainer sent out Wingtips in the maiden hurdle and after a string of frustrating efforts, the 1/4 favourite duly hacked up, easing seven lengths clear of Classic Event.

"He's been a bit unlucky and deserved that. We'll take it step by step with him," said Martin. "He has a bit of a habit of swishing his tail, but I think it's really only a habit as he will knuckle down and battle."

Matsukaze was Martin's other winner, and the 9/2 shot was given a typical waiting ride by Walsh before finishing strongly to catch Rocky Wednesday in the handicap hurdle.

The Tara Hurdle was won by Owega Star (4/1) for Peter Fahey and Andrew Leigh, with Russell and Elliott suffering more misfortune when Un Beau Matin crashed out at the second-last.

The 'Prancer And Dancer' Handicap Chase went to Colm McBratney's Sole Witness, and Ben Dalton's mount will now be aimed at the Thyestes Chase.

Irish Independent

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