Living Next Door denies Foxrock at Leopardstown

Brian O’Connor’s round-up of all the action on a day of high drama


It required a hugely brave performance from Living Next Door - and a vintage Denis O’Regan ride too - but a massive gamble on the 7-2 favourite Foxrock was just foiled in the €190,000 Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown.

Instead it was the 20-1 Living Next Door who pounced late to win the big race on the second day of the Christmas Festival by just over a length as the Ted Walsh-trained Foxrock came up just short of a famous success.

Ironically, considering his reputation as the bookies’ scourge, it was Tony Martin who came to the layers rescue this time.

The Co. Meath trainer supplied two horses owned by John Breslin and there was some confusion in the closing stages as the similarity in colours appeared to contribute to Living Next Door being mistaken for Wrong Turn during the course commentary.

Both horses, though, were 20-1 and one of them was enough for a major gamble on the topweight and favourite to be foiled.

The effort required by Living Next Door briefly left him short of oxygen in the winners enclosure afterwards but Martin assured: “It happened him at Cheltenham before when he lacked a bit oxygen and in time he got over it. This isn’t as bad and I’ve a good team to mind him so he’ll be fine.”

UK-based O’Regan is increasingly becoming a part of the Martin team and they had earlier scored in a maiden hurdle with Blair Perrone. But it was O’Regan’s big race effort that had Martin purring.

“That was the ride of the year as far as I’m concerned. The other fella (Wrong Turn) was not so good early so I stopped looking at him but this horse travelled and jumped unbelievable,” he said.

Corkman O’Regan was effusive in praise of the trainer in return and said: “Tony filled me with confidence. The horse was trained to the minute and jumped great. I’ve been coming over to Ireland a lot for the last six months and it’s great to win a big race like this. I’ve lived in the UK for the last eight years but hopefully I can keep mixing it. I’ll go anywhere for a nice horse.”

Behind the runner up Foxrock, it was the 14-1 shot Vics Canvas which finished third, while The Job Is Right at 25-1 was fourth, just ahead of the well-fancied Owega Star.

Earlier, Twinlight added to Willie Mullins’s Grade 1 Christmas tally with a 16-1 surprise win in the Dial-A-Bet Chase but the champion trainer possesses such strength in depth at his yard that he spent much of his time in explanation mode.

Faugheen’s Christmas Hurdle success at Kempton was the highlight of a St Stephen’s Day that otherwise saw Vautour flop at 1-4 at Leopardstown, while Champagne Fever’s King George appears to have left Mullins relatively underwhelmed.

“He ran his best race ever and I think that’s as good as he is. I think we’ll change course with Champagne Fever. He’ll get a Gold Cup entry but he’d have to improve by a stone and I can’t see him producing that. I thought I had him fit and well for Kempton,” he said before predicting much better for Vautour.

“I haven’t seen the race yet but any judge who saw him said he wasn’t moving properly. He didn’t stride out the way he does and I’d put a line through that,” Mullins added.

Twinlight was on his best behaviour though in the €100,000 Dial-A-Bet and, while his better fancied stable companion Ballycasey floundered off a strong pace set by Uxizandre and Hidden Cyclone, the enigmatic winner produced a career high to score under Paul Townend.

“They went a very strong pace and Paul had decided to drop out and go wide so at half way it looked like the horse started to enjoy it. He gave one jump down the back that was the biggest I ever saw here. Everything just went right for him,” Mullins said.

After a decidedly mixed Friday, Twinlight’s victory suggested the Closutton powerhouse might have turned a corner but things could hardly have gone worse in the following Future Champions Novice Hurdle as the odds-on Nichols Canyon unseated Ruby Walsh at the third flight, after which Mullins’s second-string Mckinley had to be pulled up.

It left Sizing John to make all and beat just two opponents and provide jockey Johnny Burke with a first Grade 1 success. Just minutes before trainer Henry De Bromhead had supplied Special Tiara to land the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton under an inspired Barry Geraghty.

“There were a few incidents. Our lad nearly ran out when the loose horse went past him but you have ride your luck and I’m delighted for Johnny to win a first Grade 1. He’s a very intelligent rider,” De Bromhead said.

Burke himself commented of his rapid rise to the top level: “Only this time last year I was in Limerick riding in bumpers so it’s a lovely position to be in. It’s all happened very quickly for me.”

Sizing John had previously failed to make any impression on another Mullins novice, Douvan, at Gowran and some bookmakers cut Douvan into 9-2 favourite for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Dermot Weld’s Cheltenham Bumper hero Silver Concorde has been pushed out in the Supreme betting after getting beaten at 1-3 on his jumping debut in the maiden hurdle. Silver Concorde was three lengths behind Blair Perrone at the line.

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