Clarcam takes Leopardstown feature as Vautour fails to recover from mistake

Fiscal Focus pulls off 33/1 shock as Kalkir failes to shine in Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle

Paul Townend wins The Bewleys Hotels Maiden Hurdle on Alvisio Ville on the first day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Paul Townend wins The Bewleys Hotels Maiden Hurdle on Alvisio Ville on the first day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Leopardstown racing: Cheltenham Festival and Punchestown hero Vautour suffered his first defeat for Willie Mullins as Clarcam ran out a impressive winner of the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown for Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooper.

Last season’s stunning Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Vautour had made a foot-perfect start to his career over fences at Navan last month and was the 1 to 4 favourite stepped up to Grade One level once again.

All appeared to be going well in the early stages, with Vautour largely fencing fluently in the hands of Paul Townend, but the complexion of the race changed in the back straight as he made a shuddering mistake five fences from the finish.

After being virtually picked up off the floor by Townend, Vautour was given time to find his feet, but Clarcam, well beaten by Vautour at Navan, galloped on relentlessly in front and had victory virtually sewn up rounding the home bend.

The 8 to 1 shot came up out of Cooper’s hands to produce a prodigious leap at the final fence, sealing his runaway success.

Ted Veale and Vautour dead-heated for the runner-up spot.

Elliott said: “It’s great for Bryan as this is the horse that he broke his leg on at Cheltenham. I know Vautour made mistakes but my horse didn’t just win a length or two, he destroyed them.

“Bryan gave him a great ride, I thought he got to the front a bit soon, but it worked out grand.

“It’s great to win another Grade One for Gigginstown. They are great owners and it’s great for all my staff who do such a great job.

“We’ll look at coming back here for the (Irish) Arkle and see what happens then.”

There was a major upset in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle on day one of the Christmas Festival as hot favourite Kalkir was put in his place by 33 to 1 shot Fiscal Focus.

Kalkir was unsurprisingly a warm order, having made a smooth start to his jumping career in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse last month.

The Willie Mullins runner moved well for much of the journey, but Fiscal Focus was travelling even better rounding the home turn under Mikey Fogarty and 4 to 7 favourite Kalkir was unable to make an impression.

Making his jumping bow for Des McDonogh, having previously been trained by Jim Bolger on the Flat, Fiscal Focus skipped over the final flight and was good value for his two-length victory.

There was no obvious excuse for Kalkir in second, who was in turn a long way clear of the third, Prussian Eagle.

McDonogh’s legendary hurdler Monksfield was actually beaten in the same race early in his brilliant career and the trainer hopes his latest winner could earn himself a trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

McDonogh said: “It’s been a long time since Monksfield ran in this race. He probably had too much Christmas pudding and didn’t run too well.

“I’ve not been to Cheltenham since 1987 and said I wouldn’t go back unless I had a runner. I’ll have to sit down and talk with Jim (Bolger) here tomorrow before we decide what to do. I’ve known Jim for many, many years. He’s a great friend and he’s been very good to me.

“I haven’t seen the likes of Monksfield around us for a long time. I’d love to go back to Cheltenham.

“He jumped great for his first run over hurdles and has beaten one of the favourites for the Triumph Hurdle. I’m still in a bit of shock!

“Good horses are easy to train and he’s come from a very good academy. He loves soft ground.

“He was prepared so well for me to take over and they did get Annie Power out of there, so they know how to do it.

“We’ve a lovely horse (Theophilus) tomorrow, too.”

Fogarty said: “I rode him a couple of weeks ago at home and I was really looking forward to him. He’s loads of pace and he schooled very well.

“It’s great for Mr Bolger as well because he’s a good supporter of mine. For a horse to beat 10 winners without a run is a fair achievement.

“He’s done a bit at home so it wasn’t that much of a shock to him. He travelled all over everything. Ideally I would have loved a bit more company turning in and I was just saying to Bryan (Cooper, Thunder Zone) ‘come with me another little bit’ but he just travelled all over everything. I just had to go and a good jump at the last sealed it for me.

“I’m delighted.”

Alvisio Ville made a stunning Irish debut in the opening Bewleys Hotel Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Third on his only previous start in a French bumper, the JP McManus-owned four-year-old was sent off a heavily supported 1 to 2 favourite.

Never too far off the pace in the hands of Paul Townend, Alvisio Ville was still hard on the bridle rounding the home turn, while the majority of his rivals toiled.

Townend gave his mount his head on the run to the final flight and he soon asserted, pinging the last to seal a most impressive five-and-a-half-length success.

With Mullins at Kempton, his son, Patrick, said: “He showed there what he’s showing at home. He’s 17.2 hands and has a huge stride.

“As they were going faster he jumped better and we think he’s very, very good.”

RaceBets quoted Alvisio Ville at 14 to 1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, having gone 25 to 1 immediately after the race.

Jessica Harrington’s mare Rock On The Moor beat the boys in the Thornton’s Recycling Maiden Hurdle.

The six-year-old made an impressive start to her career in a Punchestown bumper in late October, but was no match for Bordini when a distant third in Listed company at Navan a couple of weeks ago.

Sent off at 12 to 1 on her hurdling bow, Rock On The Moor asserted from the home turn in the hands of Robbie Power and passed the post four and a quarter lengths ahead of the rallying Velvet Maker.

Harrington said: “The ground at Navan was sticky which affected her and I felt she was back to where I thought she’d win.

“She was jumping beautifully at home and the plan now is to target a mares Listed race at Fairyhouse in mid-January. That’s made my Christmas!”

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