Jezki has the Hurricane in his sights

Jessica Harrington’s star takes the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse

Tony McCoy and Jezki on their way to winning the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle from Zaidpour at Fairyhouse yesterday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Tony McCoy and Jezki on their way to winning the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle from Zaidpour at Fairyhouse yesterday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho


Jezki duly landed odds of 4/6 in yesterday’s Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle but with Cheltenham in mind

it is the 2010 Hatton’s Grace winner that continues to cast the biggest shadow over Tony McCoy’s Champion Hurdle thinking.

In the three years since Hurricane Fly won Fairyhouse’s ‘Premier Jump Racing’ feature, he has graduated to two Champion Hurdle victories and a world-record tally of 17 Grade One wins in all, making him a true legend of the sport.

Yet a less than spectacular return to action last month continues to see the Willie Mullins trained superstar relegated to near after-thought status in terms of successfully defending his title next March. That’s partly due to an exceptional crop of novices that includes Jezki, as well as an apparent ageism that has contributed to a suspicion that ‘The Fly’ may be yesterday’s-news, something that clearly irritates his connections.

McCoy knows the merits of the new-kids-on-the-block better than most since his boss JP McManus also owns Saturday’s Fighting Fifth winner My Tent Or Yours, and within 24 hours Jezki completed a Grade One double for the team. Yet the perennial champion jockey reckons the McManus duo, as well as Our Conor, The New One, Annie Power et al still have it all to do against the old order.

“Both of ours still have to improve the best part of a stone to beat Hurricane Fly. He’s definitely still the one to beat,” he said after Jezki beat off Hurricane Fly’s stable companions Zaidpour and Diakali yesterday “The New One and the others are the same; they all have to improve. But my horse was very professional there.”

Taking the positives
That bookmakers left Jezki unchanged at 8/1 for the Champion Hurdle after yesterday indicates Jessica Harrington’s star will indeed have to progress again, but the trainer is taking the positives out of a display that saw the horse cruise through to lead only to make a mistake at the last.

“He was paying no attention, pricking his ears 10 strides from the last, and made a nonsense of it. But he did it well and will be better in a faster run two miles,” she said. “He’s definitely more relaxed this season and will be better going left-handed too.”

How the McManus team sort out their Champion Hurdle contenders in terms of Cheltenham warm-ups will be pretty straight-forward compared to how Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud sort out their hugely-strong novice team in terms of festival plans but right now Don Cossack is definitely top of the tree.

The giant German bred delivered the Grade One he’s long promised in the Drinmore Chase, rallying well on the run to the last to beat the Galway Plate winner Carlingford Lough, following which jockey Davy Russell delivered a rather un-PC but credible verdict, on why Don Cossack may have flattered to deceive in the past.

“He’s never been soft, but he might have been a bit childish,” Russell declared. “Hopefully this will make a man of him.”

Don Cossack got 14/1 quotes for the RSA in March but trainer Gordon Elliott expressed doubts about the three mile trip and said: “He may not have looked like the best battler in the world before but in fairness he battled and jumped today and got a Grade One. And it’s great to get that for Gigginstown.”

Another of Ireland’s big owners, Barry Connell, saw his colours carried to victory in the other Grade One on a card that is always hugely significant in terms of future top-flight action.

The Tullow Tank
Connell’s biggest investment is in Our Conor who is on course to reappear at Christmas but The Tullow Tank didn’t come cheap either and cost €7,500 just to supplement him into the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

The horse named after Irish international rugby star Sean O’Brien repaid that in spades with a half length defeat of Renneti that saw him enter Supreme Novice Hurdle calculations. However, trainer Philip Fenton, fears The Tullow Tank may be best going right-handed, a theory that could be put to the test at Leopardstown next month.