Racing round-up: Facile Vega in cruise control on jumping bow at Fairyhouse

Edwardstone secures impressive Tingle Creek win at Sandown

Facile Vega maintained his unbeaten record with a foot-perfect display on his eagerly-anticipated hurdling debut at Fairyhouse.

As a son of six-time Cheltenham Festival heroine Quevega, the Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old carried all before him in the bumper sphere last season – winning each of his four starts including big-race triumphs at the Dublin Racing Festival, Cheltenham Festival and Punchestown Festival.

He was unsurprisingly a very short price to make a successful transition to the jumping game in division two of the Fingal Ravens’ Raceday Maiden Hurdle – and anyone tempted by the odds of 1-9 will have had few concerns.

With Paul Townend taking over in the saddle from the trainer’s son, Patrick, Facile Vega travelled supremely well and jumped accurately throughout the two-mile contest, before starting to go through the gears swinging for home.


Once given his head, the son of Walk In The Park readily extended clear, passing the post with 14 lengths in hand over An Mhi.

Mullins said: “I was very happy how he jumped for a horse first time out and making his own running. He hurdled like a handicapper and it was a fantastic performance.

“I’m not sure what happened at the third-last and Paul thought something just caught his eye. He just gave him a squeeze and he took off up the straight.

“We’ll see how he is after this and maybe look at Christmas.”

Gordon Elliott already has a Cheltenham Festival race in mind for Minella Crooner after his victory in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners’ Chase.

Grade One-placed as a novice hurdler, the six-year-old made his fencing debut last month and this time went one place better as he came out on top in a battle with 4-6 favourite I Am Maximus, who was having his first run for Mullins having been fourth in the Ballymore for Nicky Henderson.

A short head was the winning margin for Elliott’s 2-1 chance, with the market leader not helping his cause in jumping to his left.

Elliott said: “He’s a grand horse. We’ll probably head for Leopardstown over three miles and I’d imagine the further he goes, the better he will be.

“He could be an ideal horse for a National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham because he doesn’t do a stroke.

“We were probably handed the race because the other horse jumped left, but Jack [Kennedy] said he has a great attitude and gallops the whole way.

“He’s very straightforward and was probably a bit fitter and sharper than the last day.”

Alan King’s Arkle hero Edwardstone marked himself out as a Champion Chase contender as he lowered the colours of defending champion Greaneteen and Shishkin in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

The eight-year-old – who ended the Barbury Castle handler’s seven-year Cheltenham Festival drought in March – had hitherto had a frustrating season, missing intended engagements in both the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham and in handicap company at Ascot the following weekend on account of unsuitably quick ground.

However, he proved well worth the wait and having been smuggled into contention by big-race pilot Tom Cannon, showed a frightening turn of foot once tackling Greaneteen at the second-last and stormed clear up the Sandown hill to record an emphatic nine-length success at 5-1, with Shishkin another six lengths back in third.

It was Edwardstone’s second win on Sandown’s pre-Christmas card, following up last year’s victory in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with more Grade One glory, and King finally gets his hands on the trophy having finished second with Voy Por Ustedes in both 2006 and 2007 and then saddling Kumbeshwar to chase home Sprinter Sacre in 2012.

Paddy Power responded by going 11-4 from 8-1 for Edwardstone to record further Cheltenham Festival success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.

Jonbon produced an exquisite round of jumping to land the Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase in impressive fashion.

The victory gives Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old a first Grade One success over fences to add to his top-table victory over hurdles at Aintree last season and was the perfect way to build on a taking fencing debut at Warwick last month.

On that occasion, the full-brother to Douvan put Monmiral to the sword with an exhibition of galloping and jumping and it was a similar scenario here as Aidan Coleman bounced out and made the running on the 2-11 favourite.

It was a case of marvelling at the sure-footed way Jonbon went from A to B for the early part of the race as 9-2 second-favourite Boothill was content to follow the Seven Barrows star as he navigated the famous Railway fences in textbook fashion.

Coleman was still to ask any questions landing over the Pond Fence with two to jump and it was at this point Boothill was persuaded by Johnny Burke to close the gap to the front-running favourite.

But there was hardly a moment of worry for the JP McManus-owned gelding who put the race to bed with a phenomenal leap at the last before accelerating to the line to take his race record to seven from eight, and leaving Constitution Hill as the only horse to have lowered his colours.

The victory strengthened his position as favourite for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival in March, with Coral, Betfair and Paddy Power all making Jonbon the 7-4 market leader from 2-1.