Felix Yonger defends Hilly Way title at Navan

Jockey Ruby Walsh also scores on Black Hercules

An 8am inspection of Clonmel on Wednesday morning is another consequence of the weather and its continuing impact on racing was stamped all over Navan's re-jigged Monday fixture which saw the Willie Mullins powerhouse secure another hat-trick of winners.

The leftovers of a programme cancelled eight days previously due to high winds had a pair of prestigious Graded races transferred from a flooded Cork tacked on, resulting in a quality card worth over €150,00 in prizemoney which would have done justice to most Sundays.

An official crowd of 2,000 went to Navan on Sunday previously for a similar Grade 2 eight-race programme. A fraction of that figure was prepared to brave rain, floods and the ‘Monday factor.’

“You could describe it as an industry day, really,” acknowledged the Navan manager, Peter Killeen. “Even with a reduced rate of €10 at the gate we were never anticipating a crowd even though with the Cork races it is a quality programme. But it’s Monday, and much of the country is still flooded. The positive thing is we’ve managed to get these races run off.”


After two cancellations at Cork, a transfer to another Horse Racing Ireland owned course at Navan hardly represented an ideal sponsorship dividend for the Kerry Group but it's Hilly Way Chase yielded a classy winner when Felix Yonger won the €47,500 feature for the second year in a row.

The Punchestown festival Grade 1 winner was passed by Bright New Dawn early in the straight but successfully conceded 8lbs to his rival by delivering a decisive spurt on the run to the last.

“I wanted to come with one run in that ground. He’s not short of speed,” reported a mud-spattered Ruby Walsh who described the going as “proper winter ground.”

Willie Mullins was prepared to take positives from the elements though and pointed out: “There’s been so much rain that they’re getting through it rather than getting stuck.”

Current conditions certainly appear to be no problem to horses carrying the colours of North of England businessman, Graham Wylie. Felix Yonger added another Grade 2 to Bellshill’s impressive novice hurdle success on Sunday and Black Hercules earned 20-1 quotes for Cheltenham’s RSA with a smooth debut over fences.

“He has RSA written all over him,” Mullins said after Black Hercules beat his four-mile National Hunt Chase bound stable companion Sambremont by a dozen lengths. “I liked the way he quickened away on the ground and I’d like to get more match practise into him with a couple of runs before Cheltenham.”

The odds-on Avenir D’Une completed the Closutton three-timer, and brought up a Gigginstown Stud hat-trick into the bargain, by easily landing the bumper form Delegate.

Walsh briefly looked like also landing the Grade 3 mares novices chase when the favourite Miss Dinamic hit the front but she ultimately faded out of the frame as Queens Wild short-headed Perfect Woman for trainer Eddie Harty who'd earlier landed the maiden hurdle with Moon Over Germany for a 38-1 double.

Queens Wild overcame a final fence blunder and Harty said: “It was lucky she had the revs up and could find a leg. I thought then we might not get the black type but we ended up getting the big one!”

Gigginstown's earlier winners, Whistle Dixie and Nickname Exit, were both produced by Gordon Elliott who in the process reached 101 winners in Ireland and Britain so far this season.

A day when less than 20 bookmakers braved the murk is still likely to be one better remembered by claiming jockey Helen Mooney who rode Augher Castle to a narrow defeat of Candle Island in the handicap hurdle for her father, Paddy.

It was a fifth career victory for the 25 year old claimer and a first over flights, as well as a first for her father who joked: “That can be her Christmas present!”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column