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Franco De Port delights Willie Mullins with Grade One triumph

Dublin Racing Festival set to be next on the agenda.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Dec 26th 2020, 3:42 PM

FRANCO DE PORT stepped up on his debut fencing success to give trainer Willie Mullins a record seventh Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The five-year-old won a beginners’ chase at Thurles a month ago, on his first race since disappointing in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

This represented a huge hike in class, but Franco De Port (8-1) proved up to the task. He was kept away from the pace set by Felix Desjy and Benruben, while Franco De Port’s stalemate Blackbow came down at the third fence.

Darver Star and Benruben led the field four out, and while Felix Desjy got back into contention before the second-last by that point Bryan Cooper had brought Franco De Port to challenge and he hit the front at the final fence before going on to land the spoils by four and a half lengths from Darver Star.

Franco De Port was given a quote of 16-1 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival with Betfair and Paddy Power and was cut to 33-1 from 50-1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase with both firms.

willie-mullins Willie Mullins at Leopardstown today. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Mullins said: “That was a nice surprise. He jumped great and capitalised on the very fast early pace which seemed to catch out a lot of the runners.

“Bryan was terrific, just keeping him together and keeping him jumping. He took what was left to him after they went too fast early on.

“He could stick at that trip, but you’d obviously look at a longer trip for him, maybe two and a half.

“I’d imagine the Dublin Racing Festival will be the plan, we’ll see how he comes out of this race today.”

He also had praise for the winning rider, saying: “Bryan is a top jockey who took his chance today and took it very well.

“We had a fair idea the way the race might work out. We played for that and it worked out.”

Meanwhile, Zanahiyr took his unbeaten jumping record to three when landing Grade Two honours in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

A maiden winner on the Flat when with Michael Halford, the son of Nathaniel has done little wrong over the smaller obstacles since joining Gordon Elliott and boosted his claims for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham with an authoritative success.

jack-kennedy-on-zanahiyr-wins Jack Kennedy on Zanahiyr wins The Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Carrying a 3lb penalty for a Grade Three victory at Fairyhouse, the 1-2 favourite justified his prohibitive odds in the manner his supporters would have hoped.

Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Druid’s Altar and Busselton made the early running and while the former started to weaken, Busselton made a brave effort to go with Zanahiyr, who had made smooth progress under Jack Kennedy to come into contention and ultimately swept the O’Brien newcomer aside to score by three and three-quarter lengths.

“That was a great performance,” said Kennedy.

“It was a complete opposite sort of race than the last day. We went very steady and he still won, so it just shows that he can do it any way.

“He only did what he had to. Quilixios (unbeaten stablemate) is very good as well, but I think he might edge him.”

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Zanahiyr was cut to 100-30 favourite from 4-1 for the Triumph by Betfair.

The victory completed a quick double for Elliott and Kennedy after Wide Receiver’s win in the preceding race.

Earlier today, Get My Drift got off the mark at the third attempt with a ready success in the ‘Join the tote.ie With A 10 Euro Risk Free Bet’ Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Third in his first two races over jumps, the Mouse Morris-trained four-year-old went two places better as he saw off 18 rivals in promising fashion.

Micro Manage, the even-money favourite, made the running to the second-last flight where Hurricane Cliff and Get My Drift looked serious challengers.

Jody McGarvey asked Get My Drift (9-2) for his effort and between the last two hurdles and soon put the race to bed.

Gee Rex made good late headway to claim second place, two and a half lengths behind the winner. Micro Manage was three and three-quarter lengths away in third.

“He’s a nice horse and he jumps well. The better ground was a help to him,” said Morris.

“I was expecting to be second, but we’ll take everything. He ran well on bottomless ground last time.

“We’ll look for a winners of one now. He’ll be better with another year under his belt.

“That’s a nice Christmas present.”

After three placed efforts Wide Receiver opened his account over the smaller obstacles in the Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle.

El Barra set the early pace, but when he was headed before the third-last it looked a match between Wide Receiver and Decimation, both wearing the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.

Wide Receiver (3-1) proved the stronger and a fine jump at the final flight secured victory for Gordon Elliott’s charge.

Ridden by Jack Kennedy, the five-year-old went on to score by a length and a half. Snake Oil was eight lengths away in third place.

Wide Receiver was quoted at 40-1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with Betfair.

Kennedy said: “He did it well and I think riding him more forward today really suited him.

“He had some nice runs under his belt so it was great to get his head in front.”

 

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