Monday 28 May 2018

Jezki confirms Cheltenham form as Jessica Harrington enjoys stunning treble

Tony McCoy riding Jezki clears the last to win The Racing Post Champion Hurdle from Hurricane Fly at Punchestown
Tony McCoy riding Jezki clears the last to win The Racing Post Champion Hurdle from Hurricane Fly at Punchestown
Trainer Jessica Harrington beaming today at Punchestown

Jessica Harrington secured her second successive treble at the Punchestown Festival on Friday, highlighted by the victory of Jezki in the Racing Post Champion Hurdle.

Having won the Cheltenham equivalent in owner JP McManus' second colours after being discarded by Tony McCoy in favour of My Tent Or Yours, he still had a little bit to prove.

He was, however, sent off the 4-5 favourite, despite the presence of 19-times Grade One winner Hurricane Fly, suggesting many felt there was to be a changing of the guard.

With all the talk about tactics pre-race, McCoy kept it simply out in front on Jezki and Hurricane Fly could never quite get on terms.

Despite jumping left, Jezki never looked like being caught and won going away by three and a quarter lengths.

For Harrington, who lost her husband, Johnny, only weeks ago, the Festival could not be going any better after she registered a sparkling treble on Thursday.

She said: "It's been absolutely fantastic these last two days, unbelievable.

"To have three winners on Thursday and then another three is beyond my wildest dreams.

"I think he (Johnny) is doing a lot of the pushing.

"All the staff in the yard have done a marvellous job.

"If Jezki was beaten here people would say the Champion Hurdle was a fluke, but he came here and won again which was fantastic.

"I just let AP do what he wanted. He's the man in the saddle and is the best in the world so why give him a plan.

"I would imagine we'll go the same route next year but it's a long way off.

"I'm not sure I saw much of the race, I had my eyes closed for most of it!"

McCoy said: "To be honest, he felt better than I've ever felt him, sometimes they get confidence from winning.

"It was a great training performance from Jessica.

"It wasn't ideal (making the running). He's a tendency to jump a bit left and it's more exaggerated when he's in front.

"Today he felt like a real Champion Hurdle horse."

Willie Mullins accepted the record-breaking Hurricane Fly was beaten fair and square and that he will now be given time off during the summer.

He said: "Jezki is a worthy champion and he's come back well from Cheltenham. Jessie's horses are flying.

"We have no excuses with Hurricane Fly, that's it for the season and he'll go out for grass now over the summer.

"Jezki's on the way up and maybe we are on the way down."

Harrington had earlier won the Aon Novice Handicap Chase.with Operating (12-1), who greatly appreciated the better ground.

The trainer said: "I suppose he might end up a Galway Plate horse. I'll have to treat him like a good-ground horse."

That was swiftly followed by the victory of Burn And Turn in the EBF Mares Handicap Chase.

Robbie Power, who also rode Operating, cruised through the race on the 7-1 chance and it only looked a matter of time before the jockey took it up from She's Got Grit, who battled gamely but went down by half a length.

Harrington said: "It's good that we split them up, she could have run in Operating's race as well.

"She's another one who will be kept going and is another possible for the Galway Plate."

After the disappointments of Quevega, Hurricane Fly and Champagne Fever, Mullins was glad to see Vautour win the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle - but he lacked the brilliance of his Cheltenham display in the Supreme.

Walsh had to get serious with the 1-3 favourite to beat Apache Stronghold by three and a half lengths.

Mullins said: "It's great to get a win. Jessie had no runner so we had a chance!

"That certainly wasn't anything like his Cheltenham form. Someone said two and a half (miles) was maybe too far, but that can't be right knowing what he did earlier in the season.

"Maybe the spectacular run left a mark. I didn't think he was as impressive.

"Having been to Cheltenham and been as impressive as he was, you would have said that today was lovely but we know what he can do.

"He wasn't right at the beginning of the week, he just wasn't 100 per cent so had a few easy days, maybe everything took its toll.

"The one owner has so many nice novices so we'll try and plan for each division next year.

"We've a lot of thinking to do."

Mullins and Walsh then doubled up with Arctic Fire (4-5 favourite) in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle.

The trainer said: "With the conditions of the race he was well in.

"He could be a Galway Hurdle horse and, all being well, that's where could go."

Things got even better for the Mullins team as 100-30 favourite Morning Run, ridden by the trainer's son, Patrick, battled back to get the better of Carrigmoorna Rock by a length and a half in the fillies' bumper.

Patrick Mullins said: "She's tough as nails."

Rohan's Pride provided his connections with a day they will never forget when winning the KFM Hunters Chase.

Winning trainer Robert Honner, whose family own both the horse and a stud, said: "It's only my third runner, I got the licence in March."

McManus put the seal on a particularly satisfying evening when the Enda Bolger-trained On The Fringe readily justified 10-11 favouritism in the concluding Donohue Marquees Champion Hunters Chase.

Online Editors

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