Sean Flanagan guides Ice Cold Soul to shock Coral Hurdle win

Melbourne Cup runner-up Heartbreak City fails to fire on his return over hurdles

Sean Flanagan celebrates his win on Ice Cold Soul in the  Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown.  Photograph: Patrick McCann

Sean Flanagan celebrates his win on Ice Cold Soul in the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photograph: Patrick McCann

 

There are more pressing implications to climate change than the outcome of the first major handicap hurdle of 2017 but freakishly unseasonal ground conditions at Leopardstown on Sunday certainly worked in jockey Sean Flanagan’s favour when winning on the 20-1 shot Ice Cold Soul.

 Instead of the usual mid-winter January slog through deep going, the €100,000 Coral.ie Hurdle was run on the sort of “good” surface that would do justice to midsummer and which resulted in a fateful game of jockey musical chairs.

 Flanagan’s intended mount, De Name Escapes Me, was taken out of the race due to the ground and the rider switched to the other Noel Meade-trained declaration, Ice Cold Soul, replacing the unfortunate Jonathon Moore.

 In a build-up dominated by the Melbourne Cup runner up Heartbreak City and his standout hurdles rating which saw him start a 9-4 favourite, the switch hardly resonated with many. But eight years after Flanagan won it on the 50-1 Penny’s Bill, the Wexford jockey once again upset the odds.

 Sitting just off a less than frantic pace cut out by the topweight Hidden Cyclone, Ice Cold Soul enjoyed a dream run up the inner.

 He then had enough at the finish to carry the colours of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud to a half length success over Heartbreak City’s stable companions, Tudor City and Golden Spear, with the favourite out of the money. 

 Earlier O’Leary had won the Leopardstown Chase with the 7-2 favourite A Toi Phil and if scooping big handicap hurdle pots isn’t as regular an occurrence for the champion owner, his steeplechase focus is still reflected in how Ice Cold Soul is a full brother to the Lexus hero, Outlander.

Leg problem

 Instead the hard luck stories were in behind Ice Cold Soul and both the runner-up and the third could be counted unlucky after meeting some interference. Heartbreak City didn’t appear to encounter any problems yet faded from the last to finish to finish only eighth.

 “He’s not long back after his long journey home from Australia and it was a good first run back. He came with a sporting chance at the last and just didn’t get home. He can’t do anything but improve for that,” said his trainer Tony Martin who didn’t rule out Heartbreak City heading next to Dubai’s World Cup fixture in March.

 Ice Cold Soul’s March target will be either the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, or the Coral Cup which could net Gigginstown a €100,000 bonus should he win it.  Given the power of O’Leary’s team there could be a jockey shuffle at the festival too but it worked out to Flanagan’s benefit with a vengeance on Sunday.

“I was in the box seat the whole way, never any hassle,” he said. “I was actually worried if he’d handle the ground but he loved it.”

 It was another big win for the jockey in his first season as Meade’s stable jockey after he was recommended for the job by Paul Carberry.

 “Paul said he was the most underrated jockey in the weighroom. I enjoy the way he rides and he’s been lucky for Gigginstown too,” the trainer said. “I feel very sorry for Jonny [Moore] but Sean is the No.1 jockey and he had to be switched.”

 To add salt to the wound, Moore had earlier picked up a two day suspension for careless riding on Lake Takapuna in the Leopardstown Chase.

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