Jezki too classy for Punchestown field
Barry Geraghty’s mount back to his best to win with ease from Ted Veale and favourite Champagne Fever
Zest for Life under jockey Timothy Donworth races through the water feature in the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup during the Boylesports Day at the 2013 Festival at Punchestown. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire.
Jessica Harrington’s star youngster Jezki got back on the winning trail with a scintillating display in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
Unbeaten in his first four starts over timber, the five-year-old had beaten the Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever earlier in the season but was only third behind the same opponent in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
With the scores even, the pair renewed rivalries in this Grade One event and even-money favourite Champagne Fever was once again sent straight to the lead.
However, while he managed to shake off his opponents at Prestbury Park, 2-1 shot Jezki was travelled noticeably better rounding the home turn on this occasion and soon asserted under Barry Geraghty.
He safely negotiated the final flight to seal a comfortable victory, with County Hurdle winner Ted Veale beating Champagne Fever to the runner-up spot.
Stan James cut Jezki to 8-1 from 16-1 for next year’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham following his 16-length romp and Harrington confirmed he is likely to remain over the smaller obstacles next season.
Asked why her charge was able to improve so significantly on his Cheltenham run, the trainer replied: “I honestly don’t know. I thought he was 100 per cent going to Cheltenham, maybe he didn’t like the cold weather, maybe it was the travelling or maybe it was the hill.
“He took a chance at the second (hurdle) today, but he settled great and just accelerated past them. He’s only done one piece of work since Cheltenham. We’ve done very little with him, but he’s a wonderful horse to train. I haven’t spoken properly to Mr (JP) McManus (owner) but I would imagine he will stay at two miles over hurdles next season.”
Mullins was at a loss to explain Champagne Fever’s disappointing display. “He didn’t seem to jump with such fluency today. He missed three or four down the back,” said the trainer. “Ruby (Walsh) thought they’d gone a fair gallop and I don’t know what happened. He just didn’t fire.”
The Mouse Morris-trained Rule The World, runner-up in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, was pulled up injured after jumping just three flights.
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: “He’s with the vets at the moment and we’re not quite sure. It could be his pelvis.”
There was better news for Gigginstown in the bragbet.com Handicap Hurdle as 16-1 chance Il Fenomeno struck gold for the long-standing association of Noel Meade and Paul Carberry.
A smart novice hurdler last season and a fair fifth in the fiercely-competitive Boylesports.com Hurdle at Leopardstown in January, the seven-year-old had been well beaten at the big Festivals at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse the last twice.
However, always travelling well on this occasion, he moved menacingly to the lead jumping the final flight and finished off well to hold on by half a length from Sizing Machine.
Enchanted Forest and Saint Gervais were third and fourth respectively, with favourite Tasitiocht fifth. Meade said: “Eddie (O’Leary) wanted to make the running on him, but they went so quick that he couldn’t and we left Paul to it.
“He jumped great the whole way and was able to save something for the finish. “You’ll probably see him jump fences over the summer.”
Enda Bolger claimed his third win in the last four runnings of the Kildare Hunt Club FR Sean Breen Memorial Chase as Zest For Life took top honours in the traditional curtain-raiser.
Run for the Ladies Perpetual Cup, the three-mile heat is contested around the cross-country circuit, a discipline at which Bolger excels.
Zest For Life was just one of four runners for the cross-country king, with Mount Sion, Keep On Track and red-hot 7-4 favourite Near Perfection in the field - but the latter parted company with Kevin Power at a very early stage when going through the water-splash.
Zest For Life (4-1) , winner of this race in 2010, appeared to be enjoying himself from an early stage and kicked clear from the home turn under 18-year-old rider Tim Donworth to score by seven and a half lengths from Lord Hawkfield.
“That was very nice,” Bolger said. “It’s the jockey’s first winner — he hadn’t even ridden a winner of a point-to-point, so I’m chuffed for him. “He could come back here for the cross-country race on Saturday and I might take him to France as there’s a good race at Le Lion D’Angers at the end of May.”