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Faugheen steals the show at Leopardstown while Delta Work lands Gold Cup success for Elliott

Asterion Forlonge and A Wave Of The Sea also secured victories on a busy day of racing.

Faugheen after winning the The Flogas Novice Steeplechase
Faugheen after winning the The Flogas Novice Steeplechase
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated Feb 2nd 2020, 3:38 PM

THE FLOGAS NOVICE Steeplechase was the race that many punters came solely to see at Leopardstown on Sunday and Faugheen’s game victory had the crowd in raptures.

The 12-year-old, perhaps the most popular horse in training, was out-jumped almost throughout by fellow market leader Battleoverdoyen but he was always in touch and the crowd went wild as he took it up between the last two.

Paul Townend always looked comfortable, or at least he did until stablemate Easy Game loomed up after the last.

The crowd willed the veteran Faugheen to keep finding under pressure and, as if responding to the roar, Suzannah Ricci’s gelding battled on bravely to score by half a length.

Rarely have scenes such as we saw afterwards been witnessed at an Irish racetrack, with the crowd clamouring to see their hero return to the winners’ enclosure, and he lapped it up.

“Three runs put together now, it’s fantastic. People say you should be retiring these old horses but if they have not too much mileage, they can still do it,” said trainer Willie Mullins.

“I don’t know where he will run next but today is about enjoying it. He was bought for chasing and I didn’t want to retire him before going chasing.

“His will is incredible. Every morning he’s out there on the gallop he wants to train. His attitude to racing is incredible.”

Rich Ricci said: “Twelve years old, having had a heart problem. It’s amazing. This is what National Hunt racing is all about.”

Faugheen and Battleoverdoyen were sent off 13/8 joint-favourites, with the latter falling at the last when beaten, having previously jumped superbly.  

Earlier in the day Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore’s bid to make it a remarkable three Grade 1 victories at the Dublin Racing Festival ran aground when the shortest-priced horse of the two days, Aspire Tower, fell at the last in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle at a sun-kissed Leopardstown.

Blackmore sent the market leader straight to the front in a bid to scoop the first prize of €88,500 but he was challenged strongly by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Cerberus jumping the final flight, at which point Aspire Tower, who had jumped superbly, crashed out.

Cerberus looked to have matters under control but he then seemed to pull himself up in front, eventually not only losing first place to stablemate A Wave Of The Sea but also second to the staying-on Wolf Prince, trained by Gavin Cromwell.

“I thought I’d a chance coming to the last but Mark’s horse pulled away at the last and I looked cooked,” said triumphant rider Barry Geraghty. “However, Mark’s horse pulled up. You can never write off any horse of Joseph’s.”

Backers of the winner were rewarded at odds of 12/1, with Aspire Tower sent off a remarkable 1/3 favourite.

Bookmakers cut A Wave Of The Sea into 14/1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, having been 33/1.

In the €150,000 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle, the unbeaten Asterion Forlonge produced a devastating display, providing Willie Mullins with a second Grade 1 success at the festival. 

Given a positive ride by Danny Mullins, the grey was in control from the turn in to the straight, with hot favourite Easywork unable to make any impression, and bookmakers were compelled to slash his odds for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle from 16/1 into 9/2.

It was a race that involved precious few. Asterion Forlonge was disputing with Easywork but Mullins’ runner got the better of that battle from the second-last, with the winner’s stablemate Mt Leinster unable to make any real impression after nearly falling at the second-last under Paul Townend.

“That was a proper good performance and he picked up well in the straight,” said the winning rider, a nephew of the winning trainer.

“He’d remind you a bit of Champagne Fever. We need to step up a bit to get to his level. He jumped a bit right early on, later on a bit left, but his gallop was strong when you needed him.”

The trainer added: “He’s surprised me, I had him down as a two-and-three-quarter-mile or three-mile horse but it looks like I’m wrong. He looks like a two-miler and he is a horse with a great cruising speed who covers a huge amount of ground.

“I told Danny to go out and make the running. I told him he wasn’t making the running for my other horses I told him he was making his own running and to try and get the fractions right.

“I suppose now we have to look at him as a Supreme Novices horse. That was the furthest thing from my mind a few weeks ago but he’s a horse that we have always liked at home.”

The final race of the evening saw the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup produce an epic finish as Gordon Elliott took the big race of the day with Jack Kennedy steering Delta Work to a hard-earned success.

A superb spectacle saw the three horses that dominated the market in Kemboy, Delta Work and Presenting Percy, jump it almost in unison. Kemboy and Paul Townend came up the rail and he had not fully asked for his effort, having jumped the second-last brilliantly.

Davy Russell had nursed Presenting Percy into contention, having been held up in rear, but Delta Work came there to lead at the last.

Kemboy would not give in but Delta Work was always holding him all the way to the line. He beat Kemboy by a length and a half, with three and a quarter lengths further back to Presenting Percy, who ran a pleasing race.

“He settled lovely and jumped great. I was there in front for a while and he wasn’t doing a whole lot up the straight,” Kennedy said.

“He has improved from the last day. To be honest I thought I got there too soon.”

Following on from a stunning successful Christmas period, this was further good news at then top level for Kennedy, who has had a torrid time with injuries recent seasons.

“Gordon and the O’Learys (Michael and Eddie) have been so good to me. Paddy my brother has been the biggest influence on my career too.”

“The one thing we learned about this horse is let him take his time,” Elliott said.

“It’s all systems go now for the Gold Cup. Our horse is improving the whole time; we’ll dream about another Gold Cup now.”

Eddie O’Leary of owner Gigginstown House stud said: “Hopefully there is more in him. He is settling more and more. He jumped very well, Jack gave him a super, super ride.

“It was a proper, proper race. In fairness to Leopardstown, they’ve done a fantastic job with then ground today.”

Delta Work is now as short as 4/1 for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.
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Johnny Ward

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