Opera Hat surprises


STRONG PLATINUM failed to further his claims for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham when getting beaten on merit by course specialist Opera Hat at Naas on Saturday.

The 3 to 1 on favourite was supported to get back on the winning trail after his close second to Imperial Call at Leopardstown last month, but Conor O'Dwyer's mount produced a disappointing, short-lived challenge from the final fence, which he jumped almost up sides the front running Opera Hat.

Never looking at home on ground riding a shade better than soft, Strong Platinum still appeared to hold every chance when produced between the final two fences to challenge the 7 to 2 winner, who had ensured a decent gallop from the outset in the Q.K. Cold Stores Newlands Chase.

No sooner had O'Dwyer landed, over the last on the favourite than Opera Hat, ridden by Anthony Powell, began to quicken away again. O'Dwyer was first to go for his whip, getting no immediate response and failing to persevere in the last half furlong when it was obvious that the John Fowler-trained mare had his measure.

Strong Platinum showed no ill-effects after the race. O'Dwyer said yesterday that he had no excuses, but his mount was never jumping with his accustomed fluency and the jockey is hoping this was just an off-day. "He needs better ground, but I am not putting this forward as an excuse as he performed much better on similar going at Leopardstown."

Opera Hat, better treated over hurdles and a versatile mare, will revert to hurdles for the Coral Cup at, Cheltenham, according to her trainer.

O'Dwyer had earlier recorded a double on Guest Performance in the opener and on The Subbie in the Johnstown Novice Hurdle.