Whipless Russell keeps his cool on Bay
Dropping your whip in the closing stages with Tony McCoy in hot pursuit is any jockey’s nightmare, but Davy Russell and Tofino Bay managed to overcome that late drama and land yesterday’s €80,000 Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan.
On a day when the sky looked the limit for Don Cossack after his impressive jumping debut, and Russell completed a 25 to 1 hat-trick on Gigginstown Stud-owned horses, it was Tofino Bay that provided Ireland’s champion jockey with a real heart-in-mouth moment.
Travelling like a winner throughout, the novice, having just his third start over fences, looked to have the race wrapped up when overhauling the pace-forcing Glenquest before the last obstacle, which was bypassed due to the heavy ground conditions.
But he started to idle, and when Russell dropped his stick, it briefly looked as if Like Your Style, on who the British champion was in full flow, might upset the applecart. But in a battle of the title-holders, Russell proved he doesn’t need the whip to galvanise one and Tofino Bay hung on grimly for a half-length success.
“I got the reins tangled up when we were bypassing the fence,” reported Russell. “I felt a winner the whole way round but I was aware he idles in front and I had to get stuck into him.”
The Irish National could be a long-term target for Tofino Bay but Dessie Hughes will target other big handicaps before that. “Very few horses like heavy but he’s one, which was a big help today,” the Curragh trainer said. “He should be able to improve from that as it was just his third run over fences.”
McCoy switched to Navan with a racing blank in Britain and also rode the Cheltenham Festival hero Alderwood on his fencing debut in the Beginners Chase. However, it was a dramatic experience for Alderwood who was a tired third on the run-in, only to hit a false piece of ground and take a crashing fall from which he was lucky to emerge unscathed.
Russell won that race too on the grey Sword Of Destiny who earned 20 to 1 quotes for the Arkle at Cheltenham from Stan James and confirmed the high opinion Noel Meade has of him.
“I think he’s a hell of a horse and he was very unlucky the last day. I was easy on him in between so I think he will improve,” said the former champion trainer ,who had earlier landed the Grade Two Monksfield Novice Hurdle with Busty Brown.
There were 16 to 1 quotes for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham floating about for Busty Brown after his defeat of Seefood and Bonisland, but ante-post quotes aplenty were swirling around after the long-anticipated hurdling debut of Don Cossack.
The triple bumper winner started at prohibitive 30 to 100 odds and didn’t disappoint, cruising past Sizing Gold before the last and stretching clear to jump to ante-post favouritism for all three Grade Two novice events at Cheltenham.
That includes the two-mile Supreme, but trainer Gordon Elliott insisted his hugely exciting prospect will be stepped up in trip, probably back at the track for the Grade 1 2½ mile Navan novice hurdle in the middle of December.
“He will definitely step up and he’s going to be a three-mile horse down the road,” the trainer said. And his jockey agreed.
“Even cantering to the start he gives you a different feel. He has so much scope and is going to get better. He ticks a lot of boxes,” Russell reported after his first racecourse spin on the German bred. Not surprisingly Sizing Gold’s trainer, Henry De Bromhead, said admiringly: “I think we might stay away from him for a while. He was very impressive. And both horses want further.”
Russell blamed himself for not having made it a Gigginstown four-timer in the Grade Two, saying he got to the front too soon on Bonisland, allowing Busty Brown and Seefood to overhaul him on the run-in.
But Noel Meade wasn’t surprised with the winner and declared: “He’s one of those that really stays galloping. He could go to Cork in two weeks time.”
Meade was denied a treble as Joanne One was too strong for Fickle Fortune in the closing stages of the bumper, while “banks king” Enda Bolger was thrilled to win the opener with the 12 to 1 shot Drawn N Drank.