Fairyhouse report: Lieutenant Colonel caps poignant day for Hughes family

Sandra Hughes trains first winner at track where late father Dessie had so much success

Jockey Bryan Cooper with trainer Sandra Hughes and her mother Eileen Hughes after he won on Lieutenant Colonel at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Jockey Bryan Cooper with trainer Sandra Hughes and her mother Eileen Hughes after he won on Lieutenant Colonel at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Almost 35 years after her father Dessie trained his first career winner at Fairyhouse, Sandra Hughes cemented family ties with the Co Meath track as Lieutenant Colonel secured Grade One glory in a dramatic Bar One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

Dessie Hughes’s death two weeks ago united racing in sadness and there was an undoubted bittersweet taste to Lieutenant Colonel’s victory.

Hughes had trained a first winner in her own name at Fairyhouse just the day before, only three weeks after her father’s last winner (The Tullow Tank) at the same track. Considering he’d also won an Irish Grand National here with Timbera in 2003, there was a poignancy to Lieutenant Colonel’s win that was lost on no one. “It’s very special,” said Hughes. “It was always Dad’s plan for him to stay hurdling this year: he went in a Beginners Chase the last day and this has proved him right.”

There did appear to be some luck involved as a race, already robbed of its star-attraction, Annie Power, was reduced to just three when the favourite Zaidpour fell at the fifth and brought down King Of The Picts.

Quiet confidence

Second Captains

The O’Leary-Cooper team later secured another Grade One in the Drinmore with the Willie Mullins-trained Valseur Lido, while Mullins had earlier landed the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle with his second-string Nichols Canyon.

But even if it looked a far from vintage Grade One, and bookmaker reaction was muted enough that Lieutenant Colonel is 25-1 for Cheltenham’s World Hurdle, there was no doubt the Hatton’s Grace winner demanded centre stage.

“It’s been an emotional 24 hours but I have to say everyone’s been brilliant,” Hughes said. “We got a great reception but that was for Dad. He put in all of the groundwork with these horses.”

Missed his cue

Apache

Valseur Lido was introduced as low as 6-1 by some bookmakers for the JLT at Cheltenham but he looks destined to play a supporting role among the Mullins novice team behind Vautour. “He keeps doing more than I think he’s capable of and he definitely looks better over fences than hurdles. He’s beaten some highly rated hurdles horses there,” said Mullins.

When reminded of Vautour and a possible future clash, he grinned. “I don’t this one will be going back in trip anyhow.”

Despite bagging a pair of Grade 1s, Mullins still looked back on the day regretfully.

Allez Colombieres’s reputation before the Royal Bond was such that he started odds-on, only to be pulled up injured after just two flights before later being put down. “He broke his pelvis and the fractured bone cut an artery and he was bleeding internally, so we put him to sleep,” said Mullins.

Nichols Canyon is a general 14-1 shot for Cheltenham’s Supreme after stepping up for his ill-fated stable companion to win by five lengths. Throw in a debut by Kalkir in the Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle, which was impressive enough to make him the new Triumph Hurdle favourite, and there was good news for owner Rich Ricci, who saw Zaidpour fall and also get news that the injured Annie Power faces two months of box rest.

If bookmakers took a pasting with Embracing Change’s win in the long-distance chase, they got much the best of the bumper with the 25-1 newcomer Identity Thief beating Tully East (25-1) and Archive in third at 33-1. “He was very green all through the race but picked up well,” said Identity Thief’s trainer Henry De Bromhead.

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