Hidden Cyclone blows away past disappointments at Punchestown
Impressive bumper winner General Principle unlikely to go to Cheltenham
Hidden Cyclone, ridden by Andrew McNamara, moved up to the winner’s enclosure in the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
No one can accuse Hidden Cyclone of being a quick learner, but the 10-year-old heads to Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase on the back of an impressive Grade 2 Punchestown success where he finally appeared to learn how to relax.
A habit of racing with the choke out hasn’t helped the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained star in his efforts to graduate to Grade 1 success and Hidden Cyclone has finished as runner-up in four top-flight steeplechases, including the 2014 Ryanair at Cheltenham.
A second to Twinlight over Christmas was especially frustrating to Hanlon’s own ambitions for a first Grade 1 too, but the conditions of the Grade 2 Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase were all in Hidden Cyclone’s favour and he duly made all to beat his old rivals Bright New Dawn and Twinlight.
Scare at start
If there was five lengths in it at the line, then the scare Hidden Cyclone gave jockey Andrew McNamara at the start may have the most significance in terms of potential Cheltenham success.
“What he did today that he’s never done before is settle: in fact after going down to the start he was so relaxed Andrew thought there was something wrong,” Hanlon said. “An awful lot of work has gone into that and I think it has worked.”
Even amid the frantic pace of a Champion Chase, the ability to contain Hidden Cyclone’s free-wheeling instincts will be a plus in his favour and some bookmakers cut him to as low as 12-1 for glory in the two-mile crown.
“We’re so used to finishing second with him, but the better ground today definitely helped him too,” Hanlon added. “He has plenty cruising speed for two miles and he jumped better than he ever has there. I’d say the Queen Mother is the option.”
The ex-Philip Fenton trained Bentelimar provided former Cheltenham festival winning jockey Shay Barry with a Listed success in the novice hurdle, the top weight winning comfortably despite some awkward jumping.
Co Waterford-based Barry, who was saddling his fifth winner as a trainer, said: “He’s got a few entries at Cheltenham in the novices and we’ll see. I think the handicaps close next week and we might put him in a couple of them. He’s a lad to look forward to. Fair play to Philip for sending him my way.”
Peter Maher lost his 2013 Cheltenham festival hero Big Shu in December, but the local trainer has another smart banks operator after the 20-1 Ballyboker Bridge overhauled the 66-1 Owens Pride in the closing stages of the banks race.
The odds-on Quantitativeeasing could finish only fourth.
It was a second winner for jockey Gary Murphy, and Maher quipped: “It proves there is plenty room in the pond for little fish.”
The most impressive performance of the day came in the finale however, and by a horse unlikely to go near Cheltenham next month.
General Principle won the bumper by 22 lengths from the well-touted Prince D’Aubrelle. But a spokesman for trainer Gordon Elliott said it is unlikely the Gigginstown-owned winner will travel to the festival.