Hourigan gets welcome change of fortune


"THIS is a serious horse. I've always thought highly of him," said Michael Hourigan of his facile Liffey Maiden Hurdle winner, Tell The Nipper, at Naas on Saturday. The gelding heads next for Cheltenham with the two and a half mile Sun Alliance Hurdle as his objective.

With the stable's star Dorans Pride out for the remainder of the season along with Bless Me Sister and Ultra Flutter - who injured ligaments in his shoulder when falling in the lead at the last fence in the Craddoxtown Novice Chase - Hourigan has had more than his share of ill fortune. But if the trainer's predictions come to being, Tell The Nipper will have made up for these reversals.

Closing into fourth place before rising to the third last, the Kevin O'Brien-partnered Tell The Nipper was travelling well in third on the outside as Brave Fountain led Lucky Bust. Tracking Brave Fountain over the penultimate flight, Tell The Nipper took up the running on rising to the last and forging clear on the run in won by seven lengths.

This was a good, staying performance for this lightly raced half brother to Love And Porter who won a point-to-point with great ease at Nenagh.

Although in need of a race, Mucklemeg started a warm favourite. He never showed with a chance and finished a disappointing eighth of the 27 strong field. I would be loath to write him off on the basis of this performance. He has had little work and is clearly match rusty.

Hourigan was mildly hopeful that Dorans Pride would recover sufficiently from his two operations for colic but a stitch became infected causing a swelling in his belly and he will now be out until the start of next season. Bless Me Sister has a leg problem.

The John Fowler-trained Opera Hat won her third race over the course when jumping delightfully to capture the Boyne Handicap Chase in the hands of Conor O'Dwyer who had initiated a double on Topical Tip in the novice chase and completed his treble on top weight Glint Of Eagles the Slane Handicap Hurdle. This good horseman is in fine form this season.

A fine leap over the fourth last propelled Opera Hat into the lead and there she stayed before eventually beating Butches Boy by four and a half lengths. Her handler had fancied her to win the aborted Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown, confident that she would stay the three miles. She will run at Leopardstown on the 21st of this month, but over two and a half miles.

Topical Tip's trainer, John Mulhern, said that Flashing Steel will run in the Pierse Leopardstown Chase next Saturday as a prelude to his Cheltenham target two weeks later.

David Bridgwater stole the show at Warwick on Saturday with the first four-timer of his riding career aboard Born To Be Wild, Most Equal, Draborgie and Volunteer at odds of 372 to 1.

And French import Draborgie, making her English debut having won five races in her native country, was obviously the star of the quartet with a trail-blazing success in the Bear Handicap Chase.

Apart from a mistake at the seventh, Martin Pipe's highly-regarded charge jumped well and always had her rivals chasing her distant shadow before being eased down for a 25-length verdict over Stop The Waller.