Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 February 2018

Rock solid for Ruby despite late scare

Martin Kelly

China Rock made a triumphant seasonal bow as he landed the Grade Two Gowran Park Champion Chase.

Mouse Morris' charge was placed in the Jewson at Cheltenham last March before being beaten just three lengths in Grade One company at Punchestown in April.

The seven-year-old was duly sent off the 13/8 favourite to resume winning ways in the two-and-a-half-mile heat and Ruby Walsh was happy to sit in third as Oscar Looby and Miss Mitch did the early donkey work.

China Rock was still travelling well at the top of the straight as Walsh made his move, with Glencove Marina also trying to challenge alongside. Oscar Looby proved game in front but as Glencove Marina dropped away, China Rock hit the front.

Although he clattered the second-last fence, Walsh regained his composure to clear the last and score a length-and-a-half verdict over Coolcashin, which finished with real purpose for second.

Morris said: "He has got stronger over the winter and I think he is a better horse now. He probably finds two and a half a bit sharp -- he wants three miles. He made a couple of mistakes but Ruby said one of them wasn't his fault. We have no immediate plans."

Days Ahead has been a good servant to Eoin Doyle since he got him out of Ger Lyons' and he ran out a convincing winner under Andrew McNamara in the opening Kilkenny 3-y-o Hurdle.

Owned by Maurice Mason and a grouping that includes Kilkenny All-Ireland winning captain of 1993, Eddie O'Connor, Days Ahead led at the second and he was clear from before the last on the way to beating Ember Jack by four and a half lengths.

"He has been unlucky a few times," Doyle said. "He might go for the Irish Field Hurdle at Punchestown. He'll be a nice horse next year. Andrew said he wouldn't want it any heavier. He wouldn't want winter heavy."

Jack Cool defied the handicapper in the Gowran Christmas Party Meeting 10th December Handicap Hurdle, shrugging off a 17Ib rise in the weights for an easy Listowel success, by scoring here by half a length under Matthew Bowes.

The winning son of One Cool Cat, equipped with cheek-pieces, got the better of Lancetto in the closing stages with a further half length back to the third placed Binocular.

Winning trainer Charles Byrnes said: "He is only a four-year-old but he handles the ground and jumps well. He is a tremendous jumper for his age. He might go back to novice company now where he'd have the four-year-old weight allowance."

Sunday Independent

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