Barry Geraghty steers Minella Foru to victory at Leopardstown
Flemenstar capitalises on Un De Sceaux fall in the Grade One Paddy Power Chase
Minella Foru, with Barry Geraghty up, on their way to winning the Paddy Power Steeplechase. Leopardstown Christmas Racing Festival. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Carrying the colours of JP McManus, Eddie Harty’s six-year-old was a 7-1 shot for the three-mile contest, with the leading owner also responsible for heavily-backed favourite Gilgamboa, among others.
Those who joined in the gamble on 4-1 market leader Gilgamboa will have been happy enough rounding the home turn, with crack conditional Jack Kennedy sitting confidently in the lead.
However, he was claimed by both Ucello Conti and Minella Foru after the final fence and it was the latter who found most for pressure to score by a length and a half.
Folsom Blue got rolling late to deny Gilgamboa third place.
Prolific mare Ballychorus was still in with every chance when falling at the final fence, bringing down the fancied Sumos Novios, who looked beaten at the time.
Minella Foru’s victory completed a double on the day for Harty following Copy That’s success under Kennedy in the previous race. It was a third winner of the afternoon for McManus at the track.
Un De Sceaux’s dramatic exit two fences from the finish allowed Flemenstar to return to winning ways in the Grade One Paddy Power Chase.
Willie Mullins’s Arkle hero was all the rage having won each of his four starts over fences since falling on his chasing debut at Thurles and the front-running 1-4 favourite was still in command when hitting the second-last hard and coming to grief. Both the horse and Ruby Walsh were quickly on their feet.
That left Flemenstar and British raider Simply Ned clear of the remainder and the latter looked likely to prevail when kicking clear from the home turn.
However, the Nicky Richards-trained eight-year-old began to tread water after the final fence and Andrew Lynch galvanised Flemenstar to get up and score by a length.
Now trained by owner Stephen Curran’s son, Anthony, it was 16-1 shot Flemenstar’s first victory in over two years and his first at Grade One level since his brilliant display in the 2012 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
Long Dog led from start to finish to claim the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle - the Willie Mullins-trained four-year-old was bidding for his sixth straight victory and his second at Grade One level, having seen off stablemate Bachasson in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse last month.
The two stablemates locked horns once more, with Long Dog narrowly leading Bachasson for much of the two-mile journey, before the latter began to falter from the home turn.
Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone and another Mullins inmate in Petit Mouchoir emerged as the biggest threats on the run to the final flight, but 9-4 favourite Long Dog dug deep to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
Tombstone was the same distance in front of Petit Mouchoir at the line.
Winning owner Rich Ricci said: “He’s very brave and he clearly wants further — Ruby (Walsh) said he was flat-out the whole way. He’ll definitely go up in trip, but I’m not sure whether he’ll run between now and Cheltenham — he seems to take his races very well. I’d be happy to go straight to Cheltenham, but it’s Willie’s call.”
Ivanovich Gorbatov leapt to the head of ante-post lists for the Triumph Hurdle following an impressive display on his jumping debut.
The winner of two of his three starts on the Flat for trainer Aidan O’Brien, the gelded son of Montjeu was a 100-30 chance for the three-year-old maiden hurdle, carrying the colours of JP McManus for the first time.
Willie Mullins’s French recruit Let’s Dance was the 4-7 favourite and was the first of the big guns to show his hand after being sent to the front before the home turn by Ruby Walsh.
However, Ivanovich Gorbatov was soon in his slipstream and once given his head by Barry Geraghty, O’Brien’s charge quickened clear to seal a comprehensive victory by two and a quarter lengths.
O’Brien said: “You should really be talking to Joseph (O’Brien) as he has done all the work with this horse.
“He’s always been a natural jumper. He handled the ground but you would imagine that he will be a horse that will appreciate much better ground.
“Joseph missed doing the latest training course as he was away at the Breeders’ Cup but he will be doing the next one that comes up.”
Ivanovich Gorbatov is the 10-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle with Coral, while Boylesports were particularly impressed, making him their market leader at 8-1.
Henry de Bromhead hopes to run Supasundae in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham after he took the maiden hurdle.
The 5-2 scorer, formerly trained by Andrew Balding and Tim Fitzgerald, stepped up considerably on his hurdling bow at Gowran last month to account for 10-11 favourite Silver Concorde by 13 lengths.
De Bromhead said: “He was very green in Gowran, and it has taken him time to learn jumping. He was better this time and has gears.
“I thought it was a savage run in the Cheltenham bumper (sixth) where he led until about a furlong down.
“I don’t think he needs too much racing as he disappointed at Punchestown last season.
“Ultimately, I’d like to go to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and he could come back here for the Grade One over two miles, two furlongs before that.
“He has a real engine and is an exciting horse.”