Walsh flawless at Navan
Racing:After a treble at Cheltenham 24 hours earlier Ruby Walsh moved on to Navan where he went one better as he won all four of his races, highlighted by the Grade One win of Pont Alexandre. Having been bought by Willie Mullins after just a maiden hurdle win in France, Pont Alexandre was sent off at 3-1 in the Navan Novice Hurdle against the red-hot favourite Don Cossack, who brought a tall reputation to the race.
However, just like with Mount Benbulben in this race 12 months ago, trainer Gordon Elliott was to suffer a reversal at the hands of a relatively unheralded Mullins runner. Whereas last year it was Boston Bob, this year Pont Alexandre was the name on the lips of racegoers after making every yard of the running.
Don Cossack was in the process of being caught for second when he jumped the last and appeared to trip up after the flight. Mullins said: “He could be anything, he’s a horse I love. I saw him in France in the summer and I rang my client and said to Rich (Ricci) I think I want to buy this horse.
“He did one bit of work this week that showed me he might be good enough and I took a chance. The winners’ races are so good, I thought if Don Cossack beats us then so be it. He looks a real nice prospect for the future. I don’t think I’ve ever started one off in a Grade One before.
“For a horse having just his second run he jumped like a natural. We won’t go back in trip but the Deloitte is two and a quarter (miles) so I might do that. He’ll probably stay at two and a half and I wouldn’t be afraid of three miles. It will either be the Neptune or Albert Bartlett in March
“He won’t go to Leopardstown (at Christmas), the obvious race would be the Slaney Hurdle at Naas but I think I want to get Champagne Fever ready for that (same owner) so I might just wait an extra few weeks.”
Elliott later tweeted than Don Cossack escaped unscathed.
Boston Bob was successful on the same card again, this time on his fencing debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners’ Chase. Sent off the 1-5 market leader, he was made to work very hard for his victory over Henry de Bromhead’s You Must Know Me by half a length. Paddy Power left him unchanged at 7-1 in their RSA Chase market but Ladbrokes eased him out to 10-1 from 7s.
Walsh said: “It was harder than I expected this morning, but not harder than I expected after I’d gone down to the start. It was heavy at Cheltenham yesterday but not as bad as that.
“I was delighted with the way he jumped as for my money he’d been a bit careful at home, but today he was brilliant. Three miles will probably bring out the best in him. We’ve always thought he was a hell of a good horse.
“He’s had a good start, a good clear round and he’s won.”
Mullins stated he would not be running at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The champion trainer also won the concluding bumper with Union Dues (3-1), ridden by his son Patrick, 23, who equalled the number of winners by an amateur in a calendar year in Ireland dating back to 1915. Walsh’s other two winners were for Tony Martin, with Wingtips (1-4 favourite) finally opening his account in the HRI On-Line Client Website Maiden Hurdle.
Martin said: “He’s been a bit unlucky and deserved that. We’ll take it step by step with him. He has a bit of a habit of swishing his tail but I think it’s really only a habit as he will knuckle down and battle.”
Matsukaze (9-2) sprouted wings to catch Rocky Wednesday in the www.hri.ie/login handicap hurdle.
The Tara Hurdle was won by Owega Star (4-1) for Peter Fahey and Andrew Leigh, with Davy Russell and Elliott suffering more misfortune when Un Beau Matin crashed out at the second-last. Don Cossack’s fall was Russell’s third in three races and he gave up the rest of his rides.
The ‘Prancer And Dancer’ Handicap Chase went to Colm McBratney’s Sole Witness (16-1) and he will now be aimed at the Thyestes Chase.