Brave Inca, ridden for the first time by Tony McCoy, came out best in a brilliant finish to the Grade 1 Emo Oil Champion Hurdle on the final day of Punchestown's Irish National Hunt Festival, coming home a head in front of Harchibald.
There was a slow pace for much of the two-mile contest and McCoy kicked for home two out with Macs Joy a length further back in third.
"It was a hell of a big ask to go to Cheltenham, Aintree and then here, he's as tough as nails and just always finds more," said winning trainer Colm Murphy. "He's been so consistent all season and unlucky not to have won before.
"Ideally you get him into a battle as he keeps finding and I thought that was the only way we were going to win.
"I spoke to AP last night to see what we would do, I pretty much left it up to him but there was no point in us making all the running to set it up for Harchibald."
Brave Inca was quoted at 5/1 favourite for the 2006 Irish Independent Arkle Chase by Cashmans and Murphy added: "He's going into a big green field of grass now and will be schooled over fences, that's definitely an option for next season. We're spoilt for choice really."
Noel Meade felt McCoy, who was replacing regular rider Barry Cash on Brave Inca, had given the winner an extra edge.
"I'm very fond of Barry, who is a great friend, but he wouldn't be one of the top five riders in Ireland and he's been replaced by one of the best jockeys we've ever seen," said Meade. "You'd have to say the change of jockey has improved the other horse.
"This run at least proved that Paul (Carberry) did nothing wrong at Cheltenham. I was probably at fault today, Paul wanted to wait but I said to go on a bit sooner."
GOOD START FOR CROWLEY
Frances Crowley, who runs Saoire in Sunday's UltimatePoker.com 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, had a boost when landing the opening Flogas Ireland Handicap Chase with Monterey Bay.
"He just stays and stays, the trip suited, the ground is probably drying out and everything was right for him," said Crowley of the winner.
"Everything is A1 with Saoire, she'll leave tomorrow morning then settle in overnight and there's nothing more I can do. She likes fast ground so that should be perfect for her."
Well Tutored, trained by Arthur Moore and ridden by his son J D, came home 15 lengths clear in the DNG Nationwide Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup over Punchestown's banks course.
"My mother is now the proud grandmother of four winning riders at this week's Festival - J D as well as Philip, Paul and Nina (Carberry)," said the winning trainer. "The horse has taken to this really well, we only started schooling him 10 days ago."
Pay It Forward came home two lengths in front of the Scottish National winner Joes Edge to land a valuable prize in the EUR100,000 betfair.com Novice Handicap Chase under Robert Power.
Trainer Jessica Harrington could send the winner on to the Galway Plate or a summer jumping race at Market Rasen.
"We fancied him because the ground was drying out," said Power. "And luckily for me Barry (Geraghty)'s a bit fat so he couldn't do 10st 5lb!"
There was a modern-day record attendance of 25,092 on the final day of the 2005 Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown.
This figure is up 3,953 on the 2004 Friday crowd of 21,139.
The total attendance at the four-day festival was 77,482 - up 4,121 on the 2004 figure of 73,361.
Asian Maze ran out an impressive five-length winner of the Grade One Menolly Homes Champion Novice hurdle, inspiring comparisons with the great Dawn Run from trainer Tom Mullins.
"She may never win a Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle but when she won today, at Liverpool and at Fairyhouse they were Dawn Run type performances. She's not as big as Dawn Run to look at, but shows us everything else," said Mullins, whose recently retired father Paddy trained the great mare, the only horse to win both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
"She might go chasing next year - she might be a Stayers' Hurdle mare or we could maybe try her back over two miles over hurdles - we have a lot of options."
DR SHARP FOR TOTESPORT CHESTER CUP
Tate confirms that recent Doncaster scorer and previous Chester winner Dr Sharp is on target for historic contest while Hobbs plans to run Unleash
A total of 38 stayers have today been confirmed at the five-day stage for the £120,000 totesport Chester Cup (2.30pm) over an extended two mile two furlongs on the first day of Chester's May Festival, Wednesday, May 4, including the Tom Tate-trained Dr Sharp.
The five-year-old, who has been allotted a weight of 8st 3lb and was a 12/1 chance with the sponsor yesterday, stayed on strongly under a brilliant Robert Winston ride to win on his last start in a handicap over a similar distance at Doncaster by three lengths on April 1.
"Dr Sharp is most certainly going to go to Chester to run in the totesport Chester Cup," revealed Tate today.
Asked what he thought of the weight his charge had been given, the Yorkshire-based trainer replied: "The lighter, the better and he is fine after the Doncaster race.
"He was staying on well at Town Moor and if he does that again, he should give a good account of himself."
Dr Sharp won on his only previous appearance at Chester in the Blue Square Games Handicap in August last year when pushed out by the same rider to deny Master Wells by a length and a quarter.
Tate continued: "It's definitely a good thing that he's already won at Chester and we're going there hopeful next week."
There were 22 runners going forward at this stage last year while the maximum field is 18.
Other possibles for the great handicap include last year's winner Anak Pekan and the Mark Johnston-trained trio of Swift Sailor, Contact Dancer, the 2004 totesport Cesarewitch hero, and Mana d'Argent. Swift Sailor is a lightly-raced four-year-old, having won on two of his three starts, including when successful a 14-furlong handicap at Musselburgh last month, while Mana d'Argent, an Ascot specialist, was fifth last year in the totesport Chester Cup.
Cold Turkey, the Queen's Prize winner at Kempton last month, may represent Gary Moore and fellow Sussex-based trainer Amanda Perrett is hoping for another big run from Big Moment, who was third last year and second in 2003. The 2004 fourth Distant Prospect is also there.
Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has four-year-old Contact Dancer going forward for the very valuable race while Philip Hobbs will run Unleash, second over hurdles at Cheltenham on April 13, if the going is suitable.
Hobbs, based near Minehead in Somerset, said today: "The plan is to run Unleash in the totesport Chester Cup providing the ground is good or faster.
"He is fine after his recent outing over hurdles at Cheltenham which hopefully will have put him right as he had not run for over a year before that.
"I think he did need the Cheltenham run but the fact that he has not appeared on the Flat for a long time should not be a problem."
Unleash, who has had just two runs over hurdles in the last two years, was a good handicap stayer on the Flat, last appearing on the level in October, 2003. He won the John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle earlier that year.
A look at Wednesday's other five contests shows that 12 three-year-old fillies have been entered for the £50,000 Listed Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks (2pm) over an extended one mile and three furlongs.
This year the race is being run for the Robert Sangster Cup, which honours the late Robert Sangster who grew up locally, had his Swettenham Stud close by and made no secret of the fact that Chester's May Festival was his favourite meeting. He was also a steward at Chester for many years.
This year's dozen hopefuls include the Lucy Sangster-owned Faint Heart, who won a fillies' maiden at Tralee in August and has been subsequently placed in three Listed and Group events including the Salsabil Stakes at Navan on her last start on April 16, when finding just Allexina three and a half lengths too good.
Mrs Sangster is the wife of Ben Sangster, one of Robert's sons, and there would be no more poignant moment than if the Sadler's Wells filly, who was bred by Ben and Robert, could take this one-off Robert Sangster Cup.
Faint Heart could face opposition from the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Seven Magicians, who was fourth over an inadequate seven furlongs on her only previous start in a maiden fillies' event at Kempton in September, and the Barry Hills-trained/Khalid Abdulla-owned pair of Alumni and Heart Stopping. The former found only Eswarah two and a half lengths too strong in another maiden fillies' event at Newbury earlier in the month, while Heart Stopping was seventh in a similar event at Newmarket in October
The opening £20,000-added Joseph Heler Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes (1.30pm) over five furlongs has attracted 18 two-year-olds including Don't Tell Sue, also trained by Hills, who made a winning racecourse bow at Newbury this month when exhibiting blistering speed to overhaul Johnny Alpha in the final strides by a head.
The Richard Hannon-trained Gamble In Gold also made a winning debut at Windsor on April 25, running on well to master Give Me The Night by three and a half lengths, and Dusty City is another previous winner who just failed to gain a second success in a similar conditions event at Lingfield on Wednesday, going down by half a length to Azygous.
The £20,000-added Breitling Watches & Waltons Of Chester Handicap (3pm) for four-year-olds and upwards over an extended one mile and two furlongs has 20 possibles.
Among these are the Steve Gollings-trained King's Thought, who was successful in the bluesqpoker.com City & Suburban Handicap at Epsom on April 20, and Zonergem, trained by Lady Herries, the winner of the Mail On Sunday/totesport Mile Final Handicap at Ascot in 2002.
Other protagonists could be Blue Monday, who did not run last year but won his two previous starts, and Nashaab, who could make his first 2005 appearance in Britain after three starts in Dubai.
Wednesday's exciting programme is completed by the £15,000-added Walker Smith Way Handicap (3.35pm) over an extended one mile and four furlongs which has attracted 15 possibles - among them is the Favourites Racing VII-owned Quizzene who won at Sandown earlier this month and one of the syndicate which owns the three-year-old is Rishi Persad, a member of the BBC's racing team - and the £12,000-added Cheshire Regiment EBF Maiden Stakes (4.10pm) over five furlongs which has drawn 29 entries including the Aidan O'Brien-trained pair of Marcus Andronicus and Rol'over Beethoven,
Entries for the second and third days of Chester's May Festival, Thursday, May 5, and Friday, May 6, close tomorrow, Saturday, April 30.
Clerk of the course Ed Gretton today reports the going as Good. There are showers forecast tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday but otherwise it will be dry and getting warmer.
PAUL CARBERRY WINS VCBET TOP JOCKEY AWARD AT PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL
Paul Carberry won the VCBet.ie Jockey Award at the Punchestown Festival with 4 winners. Carberry, a heavily backed 6/1 shot with sponsors VCBet.ie, won the first two races on Tuesday to set him set himself up and, despite Barry Geraghty closing the gap, Carberry held on.
The VCBet.ie Top Trainer Award went to Willie Mullins, whose stable accounted for 3 winners over the four days. Runner-up was Noel Meade, who had 2 winners.
The winner's were presented with their awards by Ian Marmion, Head of Victor Chandler Ireland, who said: "Victor Chandler are delighted to be associated with the Punchestown Festival. The punters had the better of this battle with Carberry and Mullins, the two biggest losers in our book."
VCBet.ie Top Jockey Award Final Standings:
VCBet.ie Top Trainer Award Final Standings:
W. P. Mullins
A. L. T. Moore
ROOSTER BOOSTER AIMING AT BIG HAYDOCK PARK HURDLE ON MAY 7
Rooster Booster, the winner of the 2003 Champion Hurdle, is being aimed at the £70,000 Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle at Haydock Park on Saturday, May 7, confirmed trainer Philip Hobbs today (Friday, April 29, 2005).
The hurdler, now 11 years old, bounced back to form last time out at Sandown, winning the Concept Hurdle on April 22 by four lengths from Self Defense.
Retirement had been contemplated for the grey after that race but, following discussions between the trainer and owner Terry Warner, the plan is to carry on racing.
Hobbs said today: "The Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle at Haydock is very much the plan. Rooster Booster is in good order after his win the other day and seems very well in himself."
Entries for the Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle over two miles close on Monday, May 2.
STANLEYBET HANDICAP HURDLE HISTORY
This year sees the 27th running of the Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle, formerly the Swinton, which is the first big race of the new 2005/2006 jump season which started on April 24.
Always a very competitive handicap which attracts a large field, the Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle carries prize money of £70,000. Previous winners have gone on to be leading performers at the very highest level.
After the great Fred Rimell sent out the winner, Royal Gaye, of the inaugural running in 1978, the following year's Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle went to the Bob Turnell-trained Beacon Light, who earlier in 1979 had been third to Monksfield and Sea Pigeon in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The same combination of owner Jim Joel, trainer Bob Turnell and jockey Andy Turnell teamed up again for victory with Secret Ballot in 1982.
Rimell gained his second victory in the space of four years when Gaye Chance entered the winner's enclosure in 1981. Three years later, after Mercy Rimell had taken over the reins from her late husband, Gaye Chance won at the Cheltenham Festival, taking the Stayers' Hurdle by one and a half lengths from Goldspun while his full-brother Gaye Brief captured the 1983 Champion Hurdle.
The 1984 Haydock Park winner Bajan Sunshine was a versatile performer over hurdles and on the Flat. In addition to winning the Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle, he was successful in one of the 1983 Flat season's major handicaps, the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Champion jump trainer Martin Pipe had the first of his three successes with Corporal Clinger in 1985. The master of Nicholashayne also struck with Tragic Hero in 1996 and Rainbow Frontier two seasons later.
Inlander landed a famous win for the "handicap king" Reg Akehurst in 1987, while Past Glories, the first of two successive winners for trainer Bill Elsey, in 1988 followed by State Jester in 1989, was another Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle winner to be subsequently placed in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle. He was only beaten three and three-quarter lengths into third by Kribensis, despite his 150/1 starting price in the 1990 Cheltenham showpiece.
In 1991 the father/son partnership of Ken and David Bridgwater teamed up for success with the mare Winnie The Witch, who had landed the County Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier in the year.
More recently, Irish trainer Tony Martin launched one of his famous raids on major British prizes when She's Our Mare was successful in 1999.
Just over two months later Martin returned with She's Our Mare to the Lancashire course for one of Haydock's best Flat events, the Old Newton Cup - she came third then to Celestial Welcome. Later that year the daughter of Commanche Run captured another of Britain's major Flat handicaps, the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket.
Three years ago Intersky Falcon was successful in the Stanleybet Handicap Hurdle for trainer Jonjo O'Neill, who also won the Haydock hurdle as a jockey on the Peter Easterby-trained No Bombs in 1980.
Intersky Falcon has gone on to win a number of top prizes including two Grade One Christmas Hurdles at Kempton and also came third to Hardy Eustace in the 2004 Smurfit Champion Hurdle.
The 2003 renewal was won by the Richard Fahey-trained Altay, who was given a brilliant ride by conditional jockey Padgh Whelan to master Patsy Veale by half a length in a tremendous finish.
Last year Macs Joy became the third Irish winner, coming home two and a half lengths clear of Dancing Bay to justify favouritism. The Jessica Harrington-trained gelding went on to prove himself a top-class performer with wins in two Grade One events at Leopardstown in December, 2004, and January, 2005.
STANLEYBET HANDICAP HURDLE ROLL OF HONOUR
YEAR HORSE AGE/WGT OWNER TRAINER JOCKEY SP RAN
2004 Macs Joy 5-10-0 Mac's J Racing Syndicate Jessica Harrington IRE Timmy Murphy 4/1F 19
2003 Altay 6-9-11 R M Jeffs & J Potter Richard Fahey Padgh Whelan 13/2 14
2002 Intersky Falcon 5-11-10 Interskyracing.com and Jacqui O'Neill Jonjo O'Neill Liam Cooper 11/2 11
2001 Milligan 6-11-4 George Leatham Venetia Williams Norman Williamson10/1 23
2000 Mirjan 4-10-6 Miss S Blumberg Len Lungo Tony Dobbin 7/1 22
1999 She's Our Mare 5-11-8 Denise Reddan Tony Martin IRE David Casey 10/1 22
1998 Rainbow Frontier4-10-0 Clive Smith Martin Pipe Charlie Swan 10/1 16
1997 Dreams End 9-11-11 T. G. Price Peter Bowen Leighton Aspell 14/1 19
1996 Tragic Hero 4-10-9 Knight Hawks Partnership Martin Pipe David Bridgwater 9/1 19
1995 Chief Minister 6-11-6 Graham Shiel Tom Dyer Peter Hobbs 16/1 13
1994 Dreams End 6-11-4 T. G Price Philip Hobbs Michael Hourigan10/1 18
1993 Spinning 6-11-0 Paul Mellon Ian Balding Jimmy Frost 3/1 17
1992 Bitofabanter 5-11-1 Mrs. I Loughlane Arthur Moore IRE Tom Taaffe 14/1 22
1991 Winnie The Witch7-10-2Paddocks Thoroughbred Racing Ltd Ken Bridgwater David Bridgwater 8/1 12
1990 Sybillin 4-10-1 Marquesa de Moratalla Jimmy Fitzgerald Derek Byrne 8/1 14
1989 State Jester 6-10-0 Eric Barber Bill Elsey John Quinn 14/1 18
1988 Past Glories 5-11-9 Noel Hetherton Bill Elsey Paddy Farrell 16/1 23
1987 Inlander 6-10-8 Jeff Daniels Reg Akehurst Steve Smith Eccles4/1 8
1986 Prideaux Boy 8-11-2 Graham Roach Graham Roach Martin Bowlby 15/2 20
1985 Corporal Clinger6-10-3 Jay Dee Racing LTD Martin Pipe Paul Leach 11/2 21
1984 Bajan Sunshine 5-10-13 Paul Green Martin Tate Peter Scudamore6/1 15
1983 Abandoned due to water logged ground
1982 Secret Ballot 8-10-3 Jim Joel Bob Turnell Andy Turnell 10/1 17
1981 Gaye Chance 6-10-10 Mrs. M Curtis Fred Rimell Sam Morshead 13/2 18
1980 No Bombs 5-10-9 Snailwell Stud Co Ltd Peter Easterby Jonjo O'Neill 7/1 14
1979 Beacon Light 8-11-1 Jim Joel Bob Turnell Andy Turnell 12/1 17
1978 Royal Gaye 5-10-0 Sir John Hanmer Fred Rimell Colin Tinkler 20/1 20
HAYDOCK PARK'S GREAT CARD ON SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2005
Racing on Saturday, May 7, kicks off with the £27,500-added FREEPHONE STANLEYBET LONG DISTANCE HANDICAP HURDLE (1.20pm) for four-year-olds and upwards over an extended two miles and seven and a half furlongs. This excellent race was won by Scottish raider Kivotos in 2004, while previous winners include Persian Waters (2003), Surprising (2002) and Crazy Horse (2001).
The other five races on the May 7 card are on the Flat and start off with the £10,000-added stanleybet.com FLAT V JUMP JOCKEYS HANDICAP (2.20pm), for four-year-olds and upwards rated 0-70 over a mile.
This event will feature six top jump jockeys competing against six high-profile Flat riders, with two horse reserves waiting in the wings to ensure that each team has six contestants.
The team element will be emphasised by the jockeys wearing distinguishing caps to identify which squad they represent. Last year's inaugural running of the unusual event saw the Flat boys come out on top.
The principal Flat event is the seven-furlong Listed £28,000 stanleybet.com SPRING TROPHY STAKES (2.50pm), for three-year-olds and upwards who have not won a Group One or Two race after 2003. The Richard Hannon-trained Rockets n Rollers was the successful horse 12 months ago.
The £14,000-added STANLEYBET 0808 100 1221 CONDITIONS STAKES (3.20pm) is run over six furlongs for three-year-olds and upwards who have not won a Pattern race after May 6, 2004. Steenberg was the winning horse last year, beating Bahamian Pirate who later in the season landed the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
The seven-race programme on Saturday, May 7, is completed by the £10,000-added FREEPHONE STANLEYBET HANDICAP (3.55pm), over six furlongs and the £5,000-added stanleybet.com MAIDEN STAKES (4.30pm) over an extended 10 furlongs. The winner of the latter race in 2004 was Godolphin's Destination Dubai.
ORDER OF RUNNING
Time Race Distance Prize Money
1.20pm The Stanleybet Long Distance Handicap Hurdle 2m 7.5f £27,500
1.50pm THE STANLEYBET HANDICAP HURDLE 2m £70,000
2.20pm The stanleybet.com Flat V Jump Jockeys Handicap 1m £10,000
2.50pm The Stanleybet.com Spring Trophy Stakes 7f £28,000
3.20pm The Stanleybet 0808 100 1221 Conditions Stakes 6f £14,000
3.55pm The Freephone Stanleybet Handicap 6f £10,000
4.30pm The stanleybet.com Maiden Stakes 1m 2f120y £5,000
LATEST NEWS AHEAD OF THE ULTIMATEPOKER.COM GUINEAS FESTIVAL
LAST YEAR'S WINNER WILL BE AN ADDED ATTRACTION ON ULTIMATEPOKER.COM 1000 GUINEAS DAY
A total of 21 fillies have been declared for Sunday's £342,500 UltimatePoker.com 1000 Guineas. A whole clutch of unexposed, potentially high class fillies are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Attraction, who landed the race 12 months ago and will be returning to the scene of her triumph on Sunday. The Mark Johnston-trained filly will work with a galloping companion at 12.30pm, 1 hour 10 minutes before the first race, as an added bonus for racegoers.
A SCORCHING WEEKEND AT THE HOME OF RACING
Racegoers coming to Newmarket's Rowley Mile Racecourse have the warmest weekend of the year so far to look forward to, with temperatures set to reach at least 20-21C tomorrow (Saturday) and as high as 22-24C on Sunday. There could be a light shower overnight tonight, but Saturday afternoon is forecast to be dry and sunny, with more of the same on Sunday. Later on Sunday afternoon, the higher temperatures could lead to a thunderstorm.
TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR ALL ENCLOSURES
Anyone without tickets can come along both tomorrow and Sunday and buy a ticket at the gate. Members' Enclosure admission will cost £35, Grandstand & Paddock £20 and the Family Enclosure just £7, with all accompanied children aged under 16 admitted FREE to all Enclosures.
DARRYLL HOLLAND AND RAY COCHRANE WILL BE THE KEY GUESTS AT PRE-RACING FORUMS
Newmarket will be staging a pre-racing forum in the Winner's Enclosure tomorrow and on Sunday, half an hour before the first race. At 1.35pm tomorrow (Saturday), Mike Vince will be joined by Darryll Holland and Ladbrokes PR Director, Mike Dillon, to preview the seven-race card, while on Sunday at 1.10pm the guests will be the former 1000 Guineas-winning jockey, Ray Cochrane, who is now Frankie Dettori's agent, and VC Bet's UK PR Manager, Neal Wilkins. They will have a bumper eight-race card to talk through.
CHELSEA AND MAN UTD GAMES BEING SHOWN LIVE
Chelsea's "pay-per-view" game at Bolton tomorrow (kick-off 5.15pm), which will bring them their first League title for 50 years if they win, will be shown in the Cellar Bar in the Members' Enclosure to which all racegoers will have access after the last race at 5.30pm. (Because of licensing restrictions in the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure once the last race has been run, the match will not be shown on the big screen on the Hyperion Lawn.)
Sunday's match between Charlton and Manchester United (kick-off 4.05pm) will be shown on the big screen on the Hyperion Lawn.