Jonathan Moore looking to make up for missing out at Cheltenham
Jockey hoping Vanillier can complete big festival double at Punchestown
Vanillier under jockey Mark Walsh on the way to winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: Dan Abraham/Inpho
There would be no more popular winner at this week’s Punchestown festival should Jonathan Moore secure Grade One glory on Wednesday.
The manner in which the 27-year-old Co Wexford jockey coped with having to cry off two Cheltenham winners at the last moment, and yet helped lead both of them back in under other jockeys, are lasting images from last month’s festival.
Only the hardest of hearts would resent Moore’s stylish response to disappointment getting rewarded at the top level.
The Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter, who gave the luckless jockey his first Grade One success at Christmas, will try to follow up on Thursday.
But first Vanillier bids for his own festival double in an Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle featuring two other Cheltenham winners in Galopin Des Champs and Telmesomethinggirl.
It took until less than a fortnight ago for the rib injuries Moore sustained in a spill just 48 hours before Cheltenham to heal properly.
“One thing I didn’t do, which I think is a great thing in sport, is I didn’t begrudge anyone the win,” he said. “Who am I to begrudge them that? There’s a bigger picture and so many more people involved than me.”
Any presumptions of Vanillier being simply a mud-lark were blown out of the water with an 11-length rout in Cheltenham’s three-mile novice event.
Now he faces up against the two-mile mares’ novice winner Telmesomethinggirl and Galopin Des Champs who won the conditional event at Cheltenham over two and a half.
Streets Of Doyen was third in the Albert Bartlett but subsequently didn’t do much for the form at Aintree.
Combine that with possibly quicker ground than Vanillier has experienced before, plus how Galopin Des Champs is officially rated his equal, and the latter may prove a better betting option.
The most valuable contest on Wednesday outside the three Grade One prizes up for grabs is the €80,000 Guinness Handicap Chase
It has proved a good race for British raiders with three wins in the last four renewals.
Tom George’s Black Op is the cross-channel hope this time and he should appreciate this company after runs in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George.
On his best form a 143 mark doesn’t look unreasonable although Black Op will have to contend with a handful of Willie Mullins runners.
They include the recent Topham winner Livelovelaugh but Royal Rendezvous looks interesting on his first start since narrowly beaten by Early Doors in last summer’s Galway Plate.
First-time cheek pieces, decent ground and the presence of Simon Torrens on his back makes Guiri hard to get away from on his first start since Christmas in the opener.
The going also looks to be in Breakeven’s favour in the following auction hurdle series final.