Benefficient’s Cheltenham odds slashed after hard-fought victory
Connections of runner-up Hidden Cyclone intend to appeal stewards’ decision
The Tullow Tank ridden by Danny Mullins (right) clears the last on the way to winning the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle during day two of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Benefficient made it three Grade One wins around Leopardstown yesterday, but the reverberations of his Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase success could continue, with the connections of the runner-up, Hidden Cyclone, stating they intend to appeal the decision of the stewards to allow Tony Martin’s horse keep the race.
In a three-way slog from the last that also included the favourite Arvika Ligeonniere, Benefficient ultimately got on top for jockey Bryan Cooper but crossed Hidden Cyclone, who closed the gap to three-quarters of a length at the line.
Any interference looked to be marginal and there was some surprise at the length of the subsequent inquiry, which eventually decided there would be no alteration.
However, Hidden Cyclone’s trainer “Shark” Hanlon confirmed yesterday evening that he will appeal that decision.
Martin was also a relieved man that his horse bounced back to form so emphatically after a disappointing effort over three miles at Wetherby.
“I should never have run him in Wetherby. That was my mistake. He worked 12 days before that with Flemenstar and he left his race behind,” he said. “We’ll think about races like the Ryanair, or maybe even the Queen Mother, if the ground was soft.”
The Tullow Tank is a 12/1 shot for both the Supreme and the Neptune at Cheltenham after he transformed what looked a less than promising situation before the turn-in into a resounding Future Champions Novice Hurdle success.
Emulating Jezki last year by completing the Royal Bond-Future Champions double, The Tullow Tank banished any concerns about going left-handed and trainer Philip Fenton will prepare the Barry Connell-owned star for another Grade One here in February’s Deloitte.
“Danny [Mullins] said the wind wasn’t helping him but he got round well and when he straightened up he ran as straight as a gun-barrel,” Fenton said.
“He’ll be entered in both races at Cheltenham and we’ll see what the ground does. The ground will probably dictate which way we’ll go. But he’s a huge improver.”
The Tullow Tank was chased home by the 33/1 outsider King Of The Picts, as the favourite Moyle Park weakened after racing keenly for some of the race.
With Arvika Ligeonniere eclipsed in the Dial-A-Bet, and the evens favourite Ivan Grozny edged out by Plinth in the opening maiden, it looked like turning into a bleak day for the Ruby Walsh-Willie Mullins team – until Rockyaboya’s Paddy Power Chase victory.
The sight of Walsh and Tony McCoy, the two most acclaimed riders of their generation, slugging it out at the end of a frantically contested three-mile chase was a memorable one, and something that vindicated punters judgment as the Rockyaboya and Cause Of Causes topped the betting.
Rockyaboya got into the race as bottom weight after Mullins withdrew Popcorn, owned by his wife, Jackie, and the relieved trainer said: “For a horse with very little experience to do that was very impressive. It’s not often Ruby gets down to 10st 3lbs to ride one.”
Doing that weight certainly didn’t affect Walsh’s strength and he held off his great rival who said: “I thought I’d get there but Ruby’s horse stuck his head out again.”
Earlier McCoy got one over on Walsh with Plinth who overcame a slow jump at the last to give Aidan O’Brien a first Christmas festival winner since the days of Istabraq.
“It was a great ride by Anthony to get him rolling again but he showed a good turn of foot,” said the champion Flat trainer of Plinth, who is 20/1 for the Triumph Hurdle after his gutsy win.
“He’s a horse JP [McManus] always liked and that was a lovely first run.”
Even with Cause Of Causes beaten a short head in the big race, it was still a memorable day for trainer Gordon Elliott who brought his Christmas tally so far to six winners overall after a treble yesterday.
No More Heroes brought up the 536/1 treble in style with a 39-length rout in the bumper. Elliott was impressed: “He’s a big three-mile chaser down the road. He may go for a winners bumper but really we have to try and mind him.”
Rocky Wednesday has tested Elliott’s patience in the past but he got it absolutely right in yesterday’s handicap hurdle, sweeping from the back to overhaul Lastoftheleaders.
“He’s a bit of a monkey but he’d got bags of ability and Robbie [Colgan] gave him a great ride,” the trainer said.
Davy Russell reached 1,001 career wins on Elliott’s first winner, Double Irish, who sprang a 16/1 surprise in the second of the maiden hurdles.