Wednesday 21 February 2018

Roque rolls back the years

Thomas Kelly

Quito De La Roque (12/1) gave Colm Murphy something to look forward to for the rest of the season after bouncing back to winning ways in the Matty Ryan Memorial Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

One of the best novice chasers in training in the 2010-11 season, when he won at Aintree and Punchestown, his career had seemingly been on a downward slope since beating Sizing Europe at Down Royal in November 2011.

Dropped back in trip to two and a half miles, Paul Townend made plenty of use of his stamina and the nine-year-old raced with his old enthusiasm in the testing ground.

The in-form Roi Du Mee gave chase from some way out but Murphy's charge jumped soundly in the straight to run out a six-and-a-half-length winner.

Days Hotel travelled well, having stepped up in trip, until a jolting mistake at the third-last put paid to his chances.

Quito De La Roque had his Gold Cup price halved to 50/1, but the Aintree Grand National could be his aim.

Murphy said: "He's had his fair share of niggly problems. They were nothing major, but they had us stopping and starting with him.

"He ran well up North (Down Royal) in the James Nicholson Chase but then things didn't happen for him. At Aintree, things happened too quick for him so it's nice to be back on track."

Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh endured something of a mixed afternoon as they had three and two winners respectively, but two expensive fallers.

Mikael D'Haguenet, which has not enjoyed much luck over fences, enjoyed a confidence-booster in the WT O'Grady Memorial Novice Chase. The Mullins-trained 1/2 shot was not hard pressed in winning by two lengths.

His success came just half an hour after Djakadam fell at the last with the race in the bag.

Mullins said: "Phew, there was better luck there. We'll try and keep him to that sort of trip now (two and a half miles).

"The Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at Easter is a likely target. He'll be entered for all those races at Cheltenham, but whether or not he goes is another day's work."

Stablemate Ballycasey (4/6 favourite) entered the picture for the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive performance in the INH Stallion Owners Novice Hurdle.

"He's progressing lovely. I'm happy he handled the ground as I thought it might be too soft," said Mullins.

"I don't know if he'll run again between now and Cheltenham. He'll be entered in the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune. He's the type of horse that would prefer better ground."

Mullins' Tarla looked beaten when she came down in the Fame And Glory Novice Chase, in which Noras Fancy was a 14/1 winner.

However, Mullins still brought home the treble when the Patrick Mullins-ridden Equus Maximus (9/1) claimed the concluding Arctic Tack Stud Hunters Chase.

Irish Independent

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