Fairytale return for Flanagan as School Boy Hours lands lucrative Christmas box

The 12-1 winner helps McManus claim ninth success in €200,000 Paddy Power Chase

Sean Flanagan on School Boy Hours comes home to win the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Sean Flanagan on School Boy Hours comes home to win the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Jockey Seán Flanagan sealed a remarkable comeback from injury with victory on School Boy Hours in the most valuable race of the Christmas period at Leopardstown on Monday.

Only eight weeks after breaking a vertebra in a schooling fall, Flanagan guided the JP McManus-owned 12-1 winner to success in the €200,000 Paddy Power Chase.

The partnership pounced late to deny the 33-1 outsider Ben Dundee by half a length at the end of one of the most competitive handicaps of the season.

Enjoy D’allen was third at 28-1 while Braeside filled the frame in fourth.

Flanagan broke his L1 vertebra in a fall when schooling for his boss Noel Meade last month but made it back in time to win the first race at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day.

All the rehab work paid off in spades, however, on School Boy Hours who delivered McManus a ninth win in the Paddy Power.

Flanagan, who got his pilot licence last year, navigated a sure flight path through an incident-filled contest in which The Bosses Oscar, a well-backed 5-1 favourite, could never land a blow before being pulled up.

“We have a great team of people behind the scenes and they all contributed to me getting back in time for Christmas. Only for them I wouldn’t be back riding at this meeting,” Flanagan said.

“After four weeks I came home one day and told the wife I was going to struggle to be back for Christmas but we kept working at it and this makes all the effort worthwhile.”

School Boy Hours was breaking his duck at the 10th time of asking over fences and picked a lucrative contest to do so.

“He’s been an unlucky horse for a long time and it’s great to win a big race like that with him,” said Meade. “A whole lot of different bits and pieces stopped him from going forward. He’s eight now and that’s only his second race [win]”

Jack Kennedy was another relishing that winning Christmas feeling after making his own successful return from injury. The Gold Cup-winning jockey had a first success since a dislocated shoulder injury last month on board Mighty Potter in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

The 5-2 winner led home a Gordon Elliott one-two from stable companion Three Stripe Life as the hugely disappointing favourite Largy Debut was pulled up at the top of the straight.

Mighty Potter didn’t enjoy a clear run at the second-last flight but overcame that to ultimately win with authority and earn 8-1 quotes for the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

Big chaser

“I think this horse is very good. There’s improvement to come because he’s still a baby,” said a delighted Kennedy who pinned the always coveted “proper horse” tag to Mighty Potter.

Elliott wasn’t arguing and although reluctant to pinpoint any Cheltenham target yet described Kennedy’s comeback as a “perfect result”.

“I was happy the whole way until the second last and he got wiped out there. Both horses did but they both showed guts and came back. The winner is a big chaser and he’s not going to be a horse until next year,” the trainer said.

A veterinary examination after the race found Largy Debut to be post-race normal.

Rarely can a horse have landed a sixth Grade One and returned to a reception more perishing than passionate as Envoi Allen did after landing the Rewards Club Chase.

Denied a real competitive edge by Chacun Pour Soi’s defection due to a hamstring injury, Envoi Allen dourly won against two rivals in a performance that actually saw his Cheltenham odds lengthened.

For a horse that this time last year was being acclaimed as racing’s ‘next big thing’ it all felt very anti-climactic.

Even Rachael Blackmore struggled to deliver more than a rather lukewarm “got the job done” report about the 2-5 favourite beating Battleoverdoyen by seven and a half lengths.

“Obviously with Chacun Pour Soi out it changed the dynamic of the race but it’s great to get his head in front,” she said. “They can only beat what they are up against I suppose and I’m happy with him.”

Bookmakers who had once been spurred into offering Gold Cup odds two years in advance for Envoi Allen were notably dismissive and pushed him out to 14-1 for the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Despite the disappointment of Chacun Pour Soi’s injury, Willie Mullins repeated his St Stephen’s Day exploits in Ireland with one winner at Limerick and a hat-trick at Leopardstown on Monday.

Icare Allen entered Triumph Hurdle calculations with a smooth Irish debut in the juvenile hurdle but the odds-on Embassy Gardens had a titanic battle with Santonito to just get the verdict in the bumper.

In between Haut En Couleurs led home a Mullins clean sweep in the Beginners’ Chase and earned 12-1 prices for the Arkle at Cheltenham.

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