Firefox thrills Elliott in Fairyhouse victory

By Sports Desk December 02, 2023

Firefox came out on top in a thrilling duel with Ballyburn in the Kettles Country House Hotel Supporting Fingal Ravens GFC Raceday Maiden Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Both arrived with reputations as being among the smartest novices at their respective powerhouse yards.

Gordon Elliott trains Firefox for Noel and Valarie Moran’s Bective Stud and he had already had a run over timber before running in four bumpers, of which he won three.

Ballyburn, some felt, was the best bumper horse in the powerhouse Willie Mullins yard last season despite only having two outings.

The two dominated from the outset and there was little between them approaching the second-last until Firefox (evens) jumped it much quicker and suddenly opened up a three-length gap under Jack Kennedy.

Ballyburn jumped the last better but the damage had been done and while he closed up a little, there was still two and a half lengths between them at the line.

“He’s a good horse and Jack said he’s so straightforward,” said Elliott.

“We thought he needed two and a half miles and that’s why we were making every post a winning post.

“Jack said he could go two and a half but he’s got so much boot and is so relaxed that everything is very easy to him. He looks exciting and you’d like his attitude.

“We wanted to get today out of the way first and I just loved the way he jumped. Jack said he was so professional over the last two.”

Paddy Power and Betfair cut the winner to 10-1 from 20s for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

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  • Forward Plan swoops late to grab Coral Trophy Forward Plan swoops late to grab Coral Trophy

    Forward Plan came from the clouds to deny Al Dancer victory in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton.

    Dylan Johnston was positive from the off aboard the grey Al Dancer, making full use of his 5lb allowance aboard the Sam Thomas-trained runner in the three-mile feature.

    Despite looking a sitting duck at the top of the straight as half a dozen jockeys appeared to be travelling better than Al Dancer, one by one they began to come under pressure.

    Flegmatik, Killer Kane, Bowtogreatness and Blackjack Magic were giving chase but approaching the last, Al Dancer appeared to have them all cooked.

    However, despite his chance seemingly having disappeared on jumping the second last, Forward Plan got a second wind and began to make ground and when he met the last running, he had momentum firmly on his side.

    Anthony Honeyball’s charge, beaten just a short head in the Great Yorkshire Chase last time out, fairly flew up the run in and came home a comfortable length-and-a-quarter winner for Ben Godfrey.

    “This race was always on the agenda for this lad and we were always going to go to Doncaster because we thought it would suit him and it did,” said Honeyball.

    “We got beat a nose at Doncaster and you just think ‘are we going to get that chance again?’. But he is a horse who is just progressing nicely and our initial thought today was the going had gone too soft, but he’s proved he does go on it and today was three miles, rather than three-mile-two.

    “Doncaster is definitely home games for him and we will be back here with him, that’s for sure. We were always working back from this and you can’t do anything about the weather.

    “We were all geared up to run and he’s not going to run again until Aintree, so we thought if the ground is too soft today and that finds us out, at least we’ve got a nice race to go to in the spring where the ground might be better. Now it doesn’t matter what the ground is like at Aintree.

    “He’s not very big, but he travels and he’s a handy horse who you can put where you want. I suppose he’s handy for races like this because he can travel away and he has a few gears. You have obviously got to be good enough to have a few gears and he had enough in reserve (stamina wise) to use them.

    “Aintree will be next, the race we won with Sam Brown a few years ago.”

    Honeyball also reserved plenty of praise for Godfrey, who was celebrating the biggest success of his fledgling riding career.

    He continued: “It’s one of the biggest wins of any jockey’s career, it’s a £150,000 race and in a handicap what is there worth more than that?

    “Ben has been based with us since he claimed 7lb. He just knows the horses and is learning to be cool and calm in a race.

    “He’s gaining some great experience in races like this and on this horse in particular and it’s really standing him in good stead. He’s finding himself in the right places quite often which is not an easy thing.”

  • Lump Sum secures Dovecote riches Lump Sum secures Dovecote riches

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    In dominating the Grade Two, the duo paid a handsome compliment to Nicky Henderson’s Jeriko Du Reponet, who had them both behind when booking his Cheltenham ticket on Town Moor.

    Lump Sum was sent off the 13-8 favourite and Sam Twiston-Davies dropped his mount out in the rear early on as Fiercely Proud was close to the pace, racing keenly for the in-form Ben Jones.

    When he joined Panjari on the turn for home, Fiercely Proud looked to have things under control but Twiston-Davies had bided his time on the favourite and ran out a comfortable four-and-a-half-length winner.

    Thomas said: “I’m delighted. We’re not having as many runners as we may be have done in the last season or two and as a trainer I don’t have as much confidence as I should do going into races like that – I was nervous beforehand.

    “I was delighted to see the horse transfer that Doncaster form, but he’s a smashing horse and learning all the time.

    Lump Sum does not hold any entries in the Grade One novice events at the Cheltenham Festival, but does have options in the County Hurdle and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

    Aintree is also an option later in the spring, but further down the line a trip to Ffos Las appears in order to try to fulfil owner Dai Walters’ long-held ambition of winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle.

    “We left him out of the novices (at Cheltenham) because of how competitive it is,” continued Thomas.

    “He’s in the handicaps and he could still be well handicapped, but that is a decision for Mr Walters and myself to have a chat about in the next week or two.

    “Absolutely Aintree could be an option, but there is never any pressure from Mr Walters with any of the young horses and we’ve got a young horse to look forward to for many seasons to come.

    “He’s a smashing hurdler for now and we’ll enjoy today before we think about the future. He’s up there with Good Risk At All who is a real mudlark and I just think he could keep going the way he is. He’s such a nice, straightforward one to train at home and is definitely one of the best ones yet. He’s done everything right.

    “Our dream would be to try to win the Welsh Champion Hurdle and I know Mr Walters is desperate to win that, so that will be our first target next season.”

    Tom Lacey’s Kempton specialist Blow Your Wad denied Paul Nicholls a fourth successive win in the Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase.

    Having already won over hurdles at the Sunbury venue, Blow Your Wad then won a competitive event at the King George meeting over fences.

    He disappointed behind Nicholls’ Ginny’s Destiny at Cheltenham last time out but fitted with first-time cheekpieces and back on a flat track, he beat Tahmuras by three-quarters of a length, justifying 13-8 favouritism for Stan Sheppard.

    “We have run him in Grade Ones before over hurdles but he was a five-year-old taking on six-year-olds, which was probably a bit harsh on him to be fair,” said Sheppard.

    “We’ve always liked him and I think he probably has to stay right-handed now because he’s won three times round here. I would say here and Sandown would be where he goes I imagine.

    “He’s probably still 10lb off the top races, but with another summer he might improve again because he’s only six and there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”

    Earlier on the card, Gary Moore and Caoilin Quinn teamed up to go back-to-back in the Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle with 9-2 shot Mark Of Gold.

  • Kalif Du Berlais made to battle for Adonis honours Kalif Du Berlais made to battle for Adonis honours

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    Trained by Paul Nicholls and part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Kalif Du Berlais created a huge impression on his UK debut over the same course and distance and he was sent off the 10-11 favourite to follow up.

    The Harry Derham-trained Givemefive had won each of his two starts though, and with Irish Derby fourth Peking Opera and the well-backed Captain Marvellous also running, it looked a deep race.

    The two who fought it out pulled a long way clear, however, and it was the superior stamina of Kalif Du Berlais which saw him prevail by three-quarters of a length under Harry Cobden and meant the major golf champion, Graeme McDowell, had to settle for second with his horse.

    “He took a bit of time to get going. We went an even gallop, I didn’t feel like we were going mad but I didn’t feel like he was going that easy jumping the last down the back and took a little bit of cajoling,” Cobden told ITV Racing.

    “He jumped the second last well and winged the last. He’s still a big baby and was hanging up the run in, so there’s lots of improvement to come.

    “He’s massive – he’s a big chasing type. I’d probably favour Aintree if it was left up to me but Paul knows what he’s doing.”

    Nicholls said: “He’s shown he can tough it out, he’s given them all weight but whether we rode him right, I don’t know – I’ll see what Harry says.

    “He’s very much a horse for the future and we’ll look after him at the minute, I’m thrilled with that.

    “He’s had a hard race today, so I’d say he won’t run in the Triumph. Aintree is a possibility I suppose, if we’re happy, but if he didn’t run again (this season) it wouldn’t matter.

    “As a chaser he’d be one of the most exciting prospects I’ve had for a long time, he’s got size and scope. To win three as a juvenile at his size is impressive.

    “Harry is riding at the top of his game and let’s hope he can keep going until the end of the season like that.”

    Derham may also look away from Cheltenham with Givemefive, who McDowell owns in partnership with multiple major winner Brooks Koepka.

    “He’s run a brilliant race,” said Derham.

    “Paul (O’Brien, jockey) and I spoke about it last night and the plan went perfectly and we just said if Cobden gets by us after the last, then so be it.

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    “He’s a horse with a bright future and we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”

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