Road To Respect takes Ryanair Gold Cup as Yorkhill gets sidetracked

Willie Mullins’s horse fails to recover after final fence blunder

Tudor City ridden by Davy Russell continues on to win the Cusack Hotel Group Maiden Hurdle as Seán Flanagan on Runforbob takes a fall at the last fence at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Tudor City ridden by Davy Russell continues on to win the Cusack Hotel Group Maiden Hurdle as Seán Flanagan on Runforbob takes a fall at the last fence at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Road To Respect capitalised on Yorkhill’s eccentricity to win a dramatic race for the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

Despite jumping violently to the left, Yorkhill looked like making all the running as the field straightened up for home.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old – winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham – negotiated the second-last fine but took a long look at the final obstacle, where he almost ran out at the wing, before taking it clumsily.

That let in Road To Respect (7-2), who was left in front in the hands of Bryan Cooper on the run to line. Yorkhill rallied for Ruby Walsh and the 4-7 favourite closed with every stride, but the post came just in time for the Noel Meade-trained winner.

Road To Respect was himself a Cheltenham victor having claimed the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase, and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who owns the winner under his Gigginstown House stud banner, said: “He was great. Clearly the best horse finished second, but you have to jump them.

“Usually we struggle to win any of these Ryanair-sponsored races – normally Willie or JP win them all, but it’s very nice.

“I think Noel has brought him on incredibly well this year. His run in Cheltenham was fantastic. He is very closely related to Road To Riches, so I’d say clearly good ground is the key to him and he got good ground in Cheltenham and he got good ground here today.

“Yorkhill is clearly the superior horse, but we are very happy to win one.”

Meade said: “We thought about running him in the [Irish] National. He worked on Wednesday and we just thought he might need another week. If he’d worked better we might have run him in the National, but it’s all worked out great.

“The other horse [Yorkhill] did it all wrong and we benefited from that. He’s obviously a very good horse. We were hoping Willie’s horse would do that and he did. All is fair in love and war!

“I think he’s a proper Grade One horse anyway. He was electric at Cheltenham and he’s proved it. I think our fella will improve and get further. I don’t know if he’ll go to Punchestown. We’ll have to discuss it with Eddie and Michael , but that more than likely will be it for this season.

“He’s a horse that doesn’t take a lot of work, and I think the less you do with him the better he is.”

Cooper said: “We went a good gallop and Ruby was obviously jumping out to his left and to be fair my lad was going a little left as well. I was jumping and winging everywhere and I was keen not to let Ruby off too quick. My lad took me everywhere.

“It’s hard to know what would have happened, but if Ruby had jumped the last any way well he would have won. He has given away so many lengths and is still on the bridle turning into the straight. He [Yorkhill] obviously has a massive engine. He had me cooked everywhere. They are there to be jumped.

“My lad is tough and galloped all the way to the line.”

Augusta Kate upset stable companion Let’s Dance to lead home a Mullins-trained one-two in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse.

After falling at the last when giving Death Duty a race in a Naas Grade One, the six-year-old was fancied for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, but could only manage sixth, albeit doing some notable late work.

In contrast, Let’s Dance struck at the Festival in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and was odds-on to follow up.

All appeared to be going to plan when she took the lead off another Mullins runner Airlie Beach two out but Augusta Kate was in her slipstream and although landing awkwardly over the last, the 8-1 chance found more for David Mullins on the run-in to edge Walsh and Let’s Dance by half a length.

The winning rider said: “She’s very tough and unassuming. She was on and off it (bridle) and wasn’t jumping the best out of the whole group, I thought. As soon as I gave her a squeeze after the third-last she jostled for a bit of position and came alive under me.

“I kind of knew I had her [Let’s Dance] beat but I wasn’t sure after the jump. She gave herself a bit of a fright in Cheltenham. She was cleverer than me today anyway. She really stays and goodness knows what is left in her still.”

The winner has celebrity connections, being part-owned by Alan Shearer, Lee Westwood and Ant and Dec as part of The Masters Syndicate which was organised by Graham Wylie.

Mullins said: “She wasn’t happy with the gear we had on her at Cheltenham. We took off the chifney [bit] and ear plugs and it seems to have suited her a lot better. She flattened the last and doesn’t know how to jump at that speed and still picked up.

“She’s improved a lot and hopefully there is more to come. We’ll see how they come out of that before deciding about Punchestown. She probably learned from Cheltenham and maybe that is a better trip for her.

“Let’s Dance came to win her race and had no real excuses. She didn’t seem as happy throughout the race as I would have hoped, but still came through with what looked a winning run.”

Tudor City got off the mark over obstacles in a dramatic running of the Cusack Hotel Group Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old has run some good races in defeat and was ending a sequence of three consecutive seconds, which included the valuable Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

Davy Russell’s mount, who had tracked the leaders throughout, came to the last in a share of the lead with Runforbob after the pair had made progress to dispute the lead after two out.

But the latter capsized at the final flight, leaving Tony Martin’s 11-10 favourite to come home nine lengths to the good over Agent Boru.

Martin said: “He was due that. What would have happened at the last nobody can say, but he deserved a bit of fortune.

“We’ll see how he comes out of this before deciding where we go next.”

Russell followed up his victory on Tudor City when Hurricane Ben made all in the BoyleSports Novice Handicap Chase.

The 8-1 shot had favourite Don’t Touch It on his heels straightening up for home, but he had plenty left in the locker and pulled away again to triumph by eight lengths.

Trainer James Sheehan said: “It’s great to win a nice pot like that. Jumping is his forte and he’s probably a real two-miler looking at that. He probably handles any ground bar heavy.”

Russell added: “Myself and James are a long time soldiering together. He was one of the first fellas ever to give me a ride. We went to England for a summer when we were about 16 and 18.

“James got it right dropping him back in distance and a bit of nice ground. He was always dropped in but we made the running with him today. He’s a different horse over that trip.”

Fridaynightlights proved too strong after the last to claim the spoils in the Gleesons Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle for Gordon Elliott.

Beechmount Whisper looked the likely winner when going clear, but Andrew Ring went after him on the 10-1 chance and scored by a length and a quarter.

Elliott said: “He’s a grand horse. I thought he’d run well, but I thought if he was fourth or fifth it would have been a good run. He should be up to winning again, hopefully.”

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