Mansony, a facile winner at Naas last month, proved himself a two-mile chaser of the highest calibre when landing the Grade 1 Kerrygold Champion Chase by a length and a quarter from Justified.
Davy Russell gave his mount, a 13/2 chance, a patient ride to come from the back of the field and took the lead after the final fence to claim victory.
“Today was his biggest test and he has come through it with flying colours,” said winning trainer Arthur Moore. “He’s always been a smashing horse and I’d been looking forward to running him in Grade 1 company.
“They went a really good pace and I was frightened he’d be done for speed early on but David gave him a great ride. He came from a similar position as when Native Upmanship just got done by Moscow Flyer in this race.
“He’s won in Grade 1 company so we’ll have to go that route next season and he’d stay two and a half miles fine.
“Mansony will progress more, he has a big heart and we haven’t been hard on him, I think he has a lot of improvement to come.
“He’s in the Guinness Gold Cup tomorrow but is unlikely to run - we’ll see how he pulls out in the morning.”
Dusty Sheehy, trainer of runner-up Justified, said: “I didn’t think the winner was going to get there but he has and that’s life. My horse will go to grass now and head down the Queen Mother route next season.
“Tony (McCoy) said he was running a hell of a race there last time but for making a mistake at the ditch.”
Newmill, the 13/8 favourite, finished fifth.
There was a dramatic finish to the Grade1 Ellier Developments Hanover Quay Champion Novice Chase when 6/4 favourite Aces Four came down at the final fence, gifting the race to 16/1 chance Offshore Account, who was travelling well at the time.
“The good thing is that we’ll never know if he would have won anyway,” said Offshore Account’s trainer Charlie Swan.
“He’s a very good mover and won during the winter on the worst ground you could imagine so I thought he must have a bit of class.
“That’s it for the season and the Gold Cup would have to be a little bit at the back of our minds next year. He travelled very well and is a horse that will never win by too far because he’s always late getting to the front.”
Winning rider Denis O’Regan added: “I think I would have won anyway, I took a pull turning for home.”
Aces Four walked away after his fall but jockey Graham Lee was taken to Naas Hospital for an x-ray of a suspected fractured left elbow.
Gonebeyondrecall, who finished third on his only point-to-point start at Belharbour on February 11, made an impressive debut under Rules when running away (by nine lengths) with the Goffs Land Rover Bumper by nine lengths under Derek O’Connor. The winner, the well-backed 3/1 favourite, is owned and trained by Noel Glynn.
Today’s attendance on the first day of the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown was 17,974, up 16 per cent on the same day in 2006.
WELL-BACKED CLOPF CLAIMS GRADE 1 GLORY
The Edward O'Grady-trained Clopf justified strong market support to take the Grade 1 vcbet.com Champion Novice Hurdle in impressive fashion, passing long-time leader Rindoon after the last obstacle.
The six-year-old had missed the Cheltenham Festival after a setback but, following an easy success on the Flat at Tipperary earlier this month, he looked right back to his best over hurdles.
"I think he was a little ring rusty coming to the second last but he battled well and I was really pleased with him," said O'Grady of the 7/4 favourite.
"I hope he's actually better than today's run. He showed real resilience and toughness today."
Clopf was cut to 20/1 from 33/1 for next year's Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle by today's sponsors VC Bet and O'Grady is hoping his charge will be a live contender at Cheltenham in March.
"He'll be back over hurdles next year and we may look at an early season campaign as he goes on good ground. Hopefully, there's a lot to look forward to with him.
"He was just a bit stiff behind and the staff did a great job with him at home. It's nice to get a good horse like him back. Had things gone to plan, I think he would have been a worthy favourite for the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham."
After a stewards' enquiry the placing of Rindoon, who originally finished second, and third-placed Holly Tree were reversed.
Clopf's rider Barry Geraghty completed a 40.25/1 double when steering 14/1 chance Charlies First to a half-length victory in the 25-runner Evening Herald Handicap Hurdle.
"He ran a good race at Cork last time but just got to the front too soon that day," said Charlies First's trainer Peter Casey. "He got a great ride today and wouldn't have won but for Barry. He'll be aimed at Galway now."
Geraghty commented: "Clopf was good today but I know he is even better than that. They went off very quick and it took my lad a while to warm up as he had not run over hurdles for a few months.
"He got going and I was happy that I was the winner half-way into the turn before the last. He kept going well and I think he is a very good horse."
There was a family success in the opening DNG Nationwide Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup when Red Setter, trained locally by Edward Kinirons, provided his 19-year-old son Andrew with a first riding success.
"Andrew put in an exhibition round of jumping," said the winning trainer. "The horse deserved to win and has been third in this race three times before. At 2pm yesterday we thought he wouldn't be running because he had a bit of a stone bruise. We were up at 6am this morning hosing him down and it is a real family success."
STAR-STUDDED 22-STRONG ENTRY FOR StanJamesUK.com JOCKEY CLUB STAKES
Last year’’s Classic heroes Sir Percy and Sixties Icon head a tremendous 22-strong entry for the ££90,000 Group Two StanJamesUK.com Jockey Club Stakes, run over 12 furlongs at Newmarket on Sunday, May 6, day two of the Stan James Guineas Festival. With the Stan James 1000 Guineas (Group One) headlining the Sunday card, it promises to be an exceptional afternoon's racing.
Sir Percy, trained by Marcus Tregoning, captured the Vodafone Derby in thrilling style in June when denying the Geoff Wragg-trained Dragon Dancer by a short-head. The runner-up, who could bid for revenge at Newmarket, remains a maiden after nine career outings.
Sixties Icon, seventh in the Vodafone Derby, went on to take the Ladbrokes St Leger at York in decisive fashion for Jeremy Noseda, defeating The Last Drop by two and a half lengths, with Red Rocks - later successful in the Grade One Breeders’’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in America - a further length away in third.
No current trainer has a better record in the StanJamesUK.com Jockey Club Stakes than Sir Michael Stoute, who has sent out six winners in total, the most recent being Gamut in 2004. The master of Freemason Lodge has entered Group Two King Edward VII Stakes victor Papal Bull and Mountain High, last seen finishing a close second to Soapy Danger in the Group Two Princess of Wales’’s wbx.com Stakes at Newmarket’’s Ritz Club July Festival.
French handler Andre Fabre took this prize last year with Shirocco, and has entered Linda’’s Lad, a Group One scorer as a juvenile who ran ninth to Sir Percy in the 2006 Vodafone Derby.
Millenary in 2001 provided John Dunlop with his second success in the StanJamesUK.com Jockey Club Stakes after Almaarad’’s 1988 triumph, and he relies on Munsef, second to Shirocco in this race last year. David Elsworth, on the mark with Sapience 14 years ago, has the progressive Balkan Knight entered.
Barry Hills’’ only success in the StanJamesUK.com Jockey Club Stakes came back in 1973 with Our Mirage. He has three entries too choose from this year, with The Last Drop joined by Under The Rainbow, third on her seasonal reappearance at Nottingham earlier this month, and Mashaahed, an easy sixth-length scorer in the Listed Doonside Cup at Ayr last term.
The one Irish entry is the Aidan O’’Brien-trained Septimus, successful in the Group Two Dante Stakes at York last year before coming home in 12th behind Sir Percy in the Vodafone Derby.
Rising Cross, trained by John Best, ran the race of her life to finish second to Alexandrova in the Vodafone Oaks at Epsom last June and subsequently landed the Group Two Park Hill Stakes at York, while John Gosden’’s Day Flight is a four-time scorer at Group Three level.
Other interesting contenders include the improving Mighty, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, who ran a fine second to Maraahel in the Group Three Dubai Tennis Championship Stakes at Newbury on April 21, and the talented Orcadian, a Group Three scorer on the Flat who has also shown plenty of ability over hurdles.
Brian Meehan has entered last year’’s Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes victor Admiral’’s Cruise and progressive handicapper Star Of Light as well as Red Rocks, Mark Johnston is double-handed with Crosspeace and Luberon, while Dragon Dancer could have a pacemaker to help him in the shape of stablemate Hotel Du Cap.
JOCKEY CLUB STAKES
Class 1, Group 2, ££90,000 Total Prize Fund, one mile about four furlongs of the Cesarewitch Course, for four-year-olds and upwards. Weights: colts and geldings 8st 12lb, fillies 8st 9lb; Penalties: after May 31, 2006, a winner of a Group 2 race of one mile or over 3lb; of a Group 1 race of one mile or over 5lb; Penalty Values: First: ££51,102; Second: ££19,368; Third: ££9,693; Fourth: ££4,833, Fifth: ££2,421; Sixth: ££1,215. From figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, April 23, 2007. All-weather form in brackets.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
41313-5 ADMIRAL'S CRUISE 5 Joe Allbritton Brian Meehan
210203- BALKAN KNIGHT 7 Raymond Tooth David Elsworth
110(2)20- CROSSPEACE 5 Favourites Racing Mark Johnston
212/124- DAY FLIGHT 6 Khalid Abdulla John Gosden
224246- DRAGON DANCER 4 John Pearce Geoff Wragg
043/2(1)6- HOTEL DU CAP 4 John Pearce Geoff Wragg
11/4103- LINDA'S LAD 4 Sean Mulryan Andre Fabre FR
40-00(0)(1) LUBERON 4 Brian Yeardley Continental Ltd Mark Johnston
315134- MASHAAHED 4 Hamdan Al Maktoum Barry Hills
(1)(1)(1)(3)(4)2 MIGHTY 4 Franconson Partners And Vanessa Church Jane Chapple-Hyam
40/1222- MOUNTAIN HIGH 5 Sue Magnier & Michael Tabor Sir Michael Stoute
20325-3 MUNSEF 5 Hamdan Al Maktoum John Dunlop
23632(0)- ORCADIAN 6 Jeff Smith James Eustace
110105- PAPAL BULL 4 Sue Magnier, Derrick Smith & Michael Tabor Sir Michael Stoute
22231-0 RED ROCKS 4 Paul Reddam Brian Meehan
030155- RISING CROSS 4 Gary Tanaka John Best
113/010- SEPTIMUS 4 Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor Aidan O'Brien IRE
11/210-4 SIR PERCY 4 Anthony Pakenham Marcus Tregoning
103116- SIXTIES ICON 4 Susan Roy Jeremy Noseda
135300- STAR OF LIGHT 6 Jerry Widdows Brian Meehan
50420-2 THE LAST DROP 4 Jack Hanson, Cavendish Inv Ltd, Sandy Patrick Barry Hills
65536-3 UNDER THE RAINBOW 4 Bill Gredley Barry Hills
SPORTING INDEX ENDS SPONSORSHIP OF CHELTENHAM’’S CROSS-COUNTRY RACES
Sporting Index has ended its long association with Cheltenham's cross-country races after 12 years of sponsorship.
The sports spread betting firm has backed the unique races, run over a mixture of obstacles including banks, ditches, hedges and timber rails, since they were first introduced at Cheltenham in 1995.
Co Limerick handler Enda Bolger, who registered his first cross-country victory at Cheltenham with Fiftysevenchannels in 1997, has enjoyed great success over the banks and ditches in recent years, notably with his grand campaigner Spot Thedifference, who has six course wins in all under his belt, and has become a firm favourite of Cheltenham racegoers.
The gallant 14-year-old, partnered to all his Cheltenham triumphs by amateur rider John Thomas McNamara, was last seen finishing fourth behind stable companion Heads Ontheground in the Sporting Index Handicap Chase at The Festival on March 13. Earlier in the season, he won the two races over the cross-country course at The Open and the Boylesports International.
Runner-up in this year’’s Sporting Index Handicap Chase at The Festival was Silver Birch, trained by Gordon Elliott, who went on to land the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree earlier this month.
At present there are three races a year that take place over the three-mile, seven-furlong cross-county course at Prestbury Park, at The Open in November, the following month at the Boylesports International fixture and at The Festival in March.
Wally Pyrah, PR Director at Sporting Index, said: "We have enjoyed a wonderful 12 years of sponsorship at Cheltenham and are very proud to have been at the forefront of the development of one of the great spectacles in British racing.
"To have seen a horse like Spot Thedifference make the course his own was wonderful, while this year we had the future Grand National winner, Silver Birch, run in the Sporting Index Handicap Chase at The Festival. This demonstrates just how far cross-country racing has evolved since 1995."
Peter McNeile, Director of Sponsorship at Cheltenham, said: "We are very grateful to Sporting Index for their loyal support over so many years and for helping to put cross-country chasing on the map in this country.
"We will now begin talking to interested parties about the sponsorship and branding opportunities that these three wonderful races and the unique Cheltenham cross-country course present."
ATR ANNOUNCES DETAILS OF EXCLUSIVE PUNCHESTOWN COVERAGE
At The Races (ATR), the UK and Ireland’s most watched dedicated horse racing channel, today announces full details of its live and exclusive coverage of the 2007 Irish National Hunt Festival from Punchestown.
This year’s Festival, taking place from 24-27 April, is on course to be the biggest ever, with 11 Grade 1 races and a record prize fund of €2.535 million (Euros), an increase of €250,000 (Euros) over last year.
ATR will broadcast a Festival Focus show every morning from 9.00-9.15, with latest news, betting shows and official going reports from Richard Galway, Racing Manager at Punchestown.
Also in advance of racing each day, Racing News will be broadcast live from the course from 11.30-12 midday, hosted by David Duggan. Racing Today, presented jointly by Gary O’’Brien and David Duggan will also come live from Punchestown racecourse.
Every race throughout the four day Festival will be shown live on At The Races. A roving camera will also bring reports and exclusive interviews from Jockeys, Owners and Trainers in the paddock and parade ring as well as bookmakers and punters around the course.
Attheraces.com covers the Festival with a dedicated microsite. Key features include nearly one hour’’s worth of special preview programming all available on-demand in bite-size chunks, plus exclusive interviews with Willie Mullins and Jessica Harrington. There is also comprehensive tipping and analysis, live racing broadcast, fast results, free instant race replays and video form.
Racing this week is of an exceptional standard. Mighty Man, fresh from his victory at Aintree, will be running in the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday 26 April, Sublimity is attempting to follow his Cheltenham success in the Grade 1 ACC Bank Champion Hurdle and, in what is likely to cause great excitement, Moscow Flyer will be appearing in the Diageo Punchestown Private Charity Sweepstakes on Friday 27th.
Regarding the Punchestown Festival, Matthew Imi, Chief Executive, ATR, said: “Racing in Ireland continues to be of the highest quality and At The Races remains committed to its Irish racecourse partners in harnessing its enormous popularity. The Punchestown Festival is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the racing calendar and as ever there is a fantastic line-up of top quality racing this week. We aim to bring all the action from Punchestown to our viewers in the most entertaining and informative fashion.”