Solwhit strikes again at Punchestown


Racing:Solwhit landed back-to-back runnings of the Dobbins & Madigans Hurdle at Punchestown this afternoon.

Conqueror of Muirhead and Hurricane Fly in the Grade One showpiece 12 months ago, the Charles Byrnes-trained six-year-old initially found Noel Meade’s Donnas Palm a tough nut to crack.

But the long-time leader eventually gave way and Solwhit (11-10 favourite) never looked likely to be caught thereafter, despite the mare Voler La Vedette running on for second.

Bookmakers reacted by cutting Solwhit to 8-1 from 10-1 for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Byrnes said: “He did it well, and you could see he was very relaxed during the race. He got a bit tired after the last but I’m happy to have that over with.

“We’ll look at the Hatton’s Grace now. I didn’t use to like running him again too soon but he’s got so relaxed at home that he’s taking nothing out of himself.

“We took him away for a few gallops before today but he didn’t exert himself too much. We will not be targeting him specifically at Cheltenham, and will go for all the Grade One’s like Leopardstown at Christmas and the Irish Champion back there.”

Colm Murphy, trainer of Voler La Vedette, said: “I’m delighted with her. She settled really well. It was a case of having to run as there is not much for her.

“She was staying on to the line and I’ve no doubt she’ll get two and a half miles. We’ll see how she comes out of this but we’ll look at the Hatton’s Grace. If there aren’t too many big guns she could go for it. She hasn’t that many options.

“I could have a look at what there is in England, but it’s a worry travelling her so I probably won’t.

A return to Cheltenham for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle could be considered, with Murphy adding: “I wouldn’t rule it out, but there is also Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

Realt Dubh made up for an unfortunate exit at Galway to claim top honours in the Craddockstown Novice Chase. The absence of Noble Prince was a big blow to the Grade Two event, but connections of the winner were not complaining as the former decent novice hurdler made it two wins from three starts over the bigger obstacles.

Sent off the 4-7 favourite, Noel Meade’s six-year-old had to work pretty hard but hit the front three out and stayed on strongly, always holding runner-up Gates Of Rome, with six lengths being the margin at the line.

Meade and Condon then doubled up as Thegreatjohnbrowne (11-8 favourite) put up an impressive front-running performance in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

Winning for the second time in as many starts over fences, the six-year-old was not at all stretched in beating Tharawaat by seven lengths, having had everything hard at work from three out in the Grade Three event.