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Bob Olinger bags Grade One glory, while Energumene maintains unbeaten record over fences

Bob Olinger was the 6-4 favourite in the hands of Rachael Blackmore, and ultimately won with plenty in hand.

Bob Olinger and Rachael Blackmore.
Bob Olinger and Rachael Blackmore.
Image: Caroline Norris/INPHO

BOB OLINGER CONTINUED his progression with an emphatic victory in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle.

The point-to-point and bumper winner made a highly promising start to his hurdling career when runner-up to last season’s Champion Bumper hero Ferny Hollow at Gowran Park in November, before landing cramped odds at Navan last month.

Stepping up to the highest level for a Grade One contest rescheduled following the abandonment of racing last Sunday, Bob Olinger was the 6-4 favourite in the hands of Rachael Blackmore, and ultimately won with plenty in hand.

Gabyanko cut out the running for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, with the keen-going Blue Lord his nearest pursuer, ahead of Bob Olinger in third.

Blue Lord looked to be travelling best early in the home straight, but had no answer when Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger found another gear between the final two flights and he ended up pulling six and a half lengths clear at the line.

Coral were suitably impressed, making the winner their 4-1 favourite (from 8-1) for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Blackmore said: “He’s always shown us a lot at home and I think today was the stamp of the kind of horse he is for the future. I’m delighted with him.

“I wanted to ride a straightforward enough race on him. He’s a simple horse to ride in that sense and I was happy most of the way.

“He jumped better today in the latter half of the race. The jump is there if you really ask him.

“He quickened up well and he seems to tick a lot of boxes.”

The leading rider believes Bob Olinger could be an even better horse once he has his attentions switched to the larger obstacles, adding: “I don’t think he’s a real, sharp Champion Hurdle horse in the making. Two and a half (miles) is ideal, but I wouldn’t rule out two either.

“For the future he’s probably going to be one for longer trips. He’s won a point-to-point and looks one for fences in the future.

“I’m delighted for Brian Acheson and Robcour (owners) who are very supportive of the game and to get a Grade One winner is brilliant.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Arkle could be next on the agenda for Energumene after he maintained his unbeaten record over fences with an impressive display.

Having already won a point-to-point, a bumper and on his sole start over hurdles, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old made a smart start to his novice-chasing campaign when registering a wide-margin victory at Gowran Park in November.

The French-bred gelding faced a tougher test in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase, with Henry de Bromhead’s high-class performer Captain Guinness among his three rivals, but he ultimately got the job done in fine style.

Sent straight to the lead by Paul Townend, 10-11 favourite Energumene jumped accurately throughout to keep the pressure on those in behind.

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Captain Guinness closed the gap rounding the home turn and briefly looked set to make a race of it, but the market leader asserted between the final two fences and pulled clear on the run-in to score by eight and a half lengths.

The winner’s stablemate Blackbow was a long way behind in third.

Mullins said of the winner: “That was very impressive, and his jumping was a key factor. He’s got a great method to jump.

“I brought him back to two miles to see if he would be as effective. He loves jumping.

“That was very testing going, and (he was) making all his own running. Paul just gave him a breather turning for home, and he’s picked up again. I was very taken with it.

“I’d imagine we will go down the two-mile route now, and the Arkle at Leopardstown would look the place to go.”

Paddy Power cut Energumene to 5-1 from 12-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, making him their clear second-favourite behind Shishkin.

Mullins went on to double his tally with 9-4 favourite Belle Metal in the Rushe’s Supervalu (Pro/Am) Flat Race, ridden by Jody Townend.

“We will be looking to up her in grade, although the owners may be keen to sell, so she could be in different colours the next day,” the champion trainer added.

Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore also combined for a double on the card, with the Grade One success of Bob Olinger preceded by the comfortable victory of Epson Du Houx in the Eastcoast Seafood And Gouldings Hardware Handicap Chase.

The 9-4 favourite travelled strongly to the lead in the home straight and passed the post with six and a half lengths in hand.

“We didn’t get our own way in front, and it was a little bit messy like that, but I was impressed with him – and hopefully there are a few more days in him,” said Blackmore.

Amateur rider Harry Swan, son of the multiple champion jockey Charlie Swan, struck gold on his very first ride over hurdles aboard the Timmy Hyde-trained On Eagles Wings.

The 18-year-old, riding his fourth winner overall, steered the 2-1 shot to a two-and-a-half-length verdict from Captain Kangaroo in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.

Hyde said: “On his bumper form I thought he had a good chance, but you never know what you are coming up against in these races from the big stables. I was very happy with him.”

Charlie Swan added: “Timmy, myself and Harry have all now won on our first ride over hurdles.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Miss Pernickety justified 4-7 favouritism in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase under JJ Slevin.

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