Dublin: 12°C Sunday 24 October 2021

Johnny Ward: Bull roars to dramatic victory in festive Leopardstown test

There was a memorable soundtrack as Jack Kennedy took the main prize on Day 2 of the Christmas Festival.

Jack Kennedy celebrates after Roaring Bull's triumph.
Jack Kennedy celebrates after Roaring Bull's triumph.
Image: INPHO

EARLIER THIS WEEK, Racing TV showed Tiger Roll’s second Grand National win, the handly little legend jumping like Desert Orchid.

As he effectively hurdled the final obstacles, through some mirage of spruce as much an obstacle as the pitchfork tackling the tide, it was startling how little it takes to jump an Aintree National fence thanks to the animal welfare lobby.

Commentator Jerry Hannon’s heart was still banging like the base-heavy music the loudspeakers imposed on us after racing, as the war-worn steeds returned from yesterday’s Paddy Power at a heaving Leopardstown.

The Racing Post Irish editor Richie Forristal turned to me.

“That’s the real Grand National if you ask me. Forget Aintree.”

Somewhat in jest, the point is profound: at least this three-mile festive Leopardstown test demands that you can jump under duress. It challenged a gasping Hannon too, his appropriate bellow of “Roaring Bull! Roaring Bull is up!” likely to be played on many a smartphone in taverns this evening.

Pont Aven unseated at the sixth. No Comment was lurking when he went five out, at which point Vieux Morgan – who had survived a blunder at the fourth – unseated Oakley Brown.

Cabaret Queen just about got by a loose one before the next, only to lose concentration, clatter it and fall. At the same obstacle, the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now was effectively brought down by Cabaret Queen, no less, getting rid of namesake Mark.

Class Conti might have had enough when he fell at the last. His rider Sean McDermott would have had little time to notice that Fitzhenry, who was grabbed near the line, had his tack a long way from his neck after three gruelling miles.

Hannon might have been the star stayer in the race, even if he just about got home. As Cathal Gahan of the Racing Post noted on Twitter: 

Gordon Elliott was sick after the defeat of Samcro yesterday and, for both he and rider Jack Kennedy, this was not bad in the compo stakes, certainly with a pot of €200,000 on offer here.

It was cruel on Fitzhenry’s trainer Paul Nolan, who watched his horse veer wildly left, take the lead near the wire, only to be grabbed even nearer it. He went 1/20 in-running on the exchanges.

“I feel sorry for Paul Nolan, who is a very good friend of mine. I was watching the race out on the track with Paul and I was cheering his horse on because I thought I was gone,” Elliott said.

“Next thing with about 50 yards to go I saw my lad flying and I sort of bit my tongue and said nothing. It’s great for everyone in the yard but I’m a bit gutted for Paul.”

Elliott knows winning big races like the rest of us know pints. For Nolan, who had to battle hard to hold onto star novice hurdler Latest Exhibition, this would have been huge.

Roaring Bull’s connections, those of Abacadabras, won the novice hurdle. Yet this was a Grade 1 in name only, given that only four turned up to run and only two turned up to race, with the long-shot Heaven Help Us giving the winner anything to do.

Bookmakers somehow cut the winner for the Supreme Novice Hurdle post-race, even if this form can only be nowhere near good enough. Maybe they think there’s nothing else around. Elliott reckoned he did nothing in front; Kennedy was happy too.

If the hype about Samcro is dead, that of Chacun Pour Sois is deflated after his defeat to A Plus Tard in the Grade 1 chase. The problem with those of us who thought the Mullins runner could be the next big thing was that he did nothing wrong – expect show us his limitations. Willie Mullins looked ashen-faced. For Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, it was another big-event winner.


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“It’s unbelievable.; it’s been some Christmas. He was brilliant and just stayed on really well at the end,” Blackmore told Racing TV.

Despite that defeat, Mullins still enjoyed a double with Melon and hugely impressive bumper winner Appreciate It. Consider both for your Cheltenham portfolio (Arkle and Cheltenham Bumper).

Jim Bolger, who presented yours truly with a letter from an adoring fan of my the42 column later on, was there to celebrate wife Jackie’s win in the maiden hurdle, her Leagan Gaeilge scoring for trainer Brendan Duke.

“It’s great to have a winner here at the Christmas meeting. I haven’t had a great year for Jim but this will make up for a lot of it,” reflected Duke afterwards. He has been in the gutter but he is staring that the 2020 stars.

Plenty of JP McManus runners produced notable performances of varying merit on the day but The Moyglass Flyer landed a gamble in the green and gold in the handicap hurdle, denying de Bromhead a double. Swings and roundabouts and all of that.

Roaring Roaring Bull Home, however, was the lingering memory for many of the 16,727 who enjoyed the mild weather in Foxrock. It is Jerry Hannon’s first full year commentating since the late-race exit of the legendary Dessie Scahill, the man he idolised. Yesterday felt like the heir apparent had arrived.

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