DAVY Russell has a great strike rate at Cork but had never won a Paddy Power Cork Grand National until yesterday when taking the €50,000 prize with Out Sam in the colours of his London-based sponsor’s company Citipost.
It was also a first success in the race for the nine-year-old’s trainer Gordon Elliott.
The race went very much according to plan for the Youghal native, but Ruby Walsh had the misfortune to hit the deck at the third last after the favourite Minella Beau made a novice mistake and paid the price.
In contrast, Russell enjoyed a smooth passage, commenting: “He jumped and he travelled today and I felt, going down to the second last, I had enough to keep going. It just fell into place all the way.
“He was frustrating last year, but he’s been a different horse this year. Even going to the start, he was on the money and my sponsor (Danny Charlesworth) owns him. He’s a big supporter of Gordon’s yard and is my sponsor as well!”
Ruby Walsh’s luck was also out in an eventful Grade 3 Paddy Power Celebrating 30 Years Irish EBF Novice Chase where Robin Des Foret, the 9/10 favourite looked poised to deliver his challenge when hitting the third last fence hard and taking a heavy fall.
That left Winter Escape with the race for the taking and Mark Walsh’s mount went on to score by a very comfortable six lengths in the J.P. McManus silks from Clara Sorrento. The 7/2 chance, a classy hurdler in Britain when in the care of Alan King, is now trained by Aidan Howard who said “He travelled very well and ended up in front a little bit early, but he did it well.”
Winter Escape will be among the entries for the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse later this month, with his trainer remarking “He does everything very easily at home and, trip-wise, Mark said he wouldn’t have any trouble coming back in trip.”
Midleton jockey Paul Townend rides Cork better than most and notched up a double through Robin De Carlow and Dark Outsider. Willie Mullins trains the former for the Supreme Horse Racing Club and, despite diving at the final two obstacles, she rewarded them with an eased down 11 length success in the listed three mile Paddy’s Rewards Club Irish EBF Novice Hurdle.
Townend reported: “She’s learning as she goes along and is learning on the job. She was in front on her own (at the last) and had a bit of a look around, but she got to the other side and she impressed me. She handled the ground and got the trip no problem.”
The rider was praised by Bandon trainer James Dullea for his handling of Dark Outsider in the Paddy Power Onside App Handicap Chase. The 10-year-old led or disputed throughout and had one and threequarters of a length to spare over the ‘good thing’ Just A Normal Day at the finish.
The stable stalwart was winning his sixth race for the Bayshaven Syndicate from just outside Bandon and Dullea said: “He’s an absolute gem and they’re a great bunch of lads who are knocking great craic out of him.
“Paul was excellent on him and that’s the way to ride him – he got it spot on. He doesn’t handle real winter ground, but he’ll keep going as long as the ground doesn’t get too deep.”
Royal Illusion’s 14 length win in the mares bumper took Patrick Mullins by surprise, the rider saying “I couldn’t believe, when I looked behind me, how far we pulled clear.”
The Ballylinch Stud-owned mare is one of the last of King’s Theatre’s progeny and Mullins observed: “She’s very good. At home she doesn’t do anything at all but, on the track, she transforms herself into a batmobile!
“She could go to Navan at the end of the month or she could get a break and come back in the spring for a listed bumper.”
Pat Flynn’s horses are beginning to run into form and the Co. Waterford trainer saddled Buttons And Bows to make a winning debut under Jody McGarvey in the Paddy’s Super Enhancements 4-Y-O Maiden Hurdle.
The 25/1 shot, who initiated a double for the filly’s owner J.P. McManus, was switched in to challenge Jon Ess and the favourite Eclair De Beaufeu at the last and kept going to land the odds by half a length. Flynn wasn’t totally surprised by the result, commenting “She’s been working well and she’s a brilliant jumper.
“She’s a lovely filly and I trained her dam. She won four races for us and this one is stronger than her mother. We won’t get carried away and we’ll move along from there and see what the ground is like. She likes a cut in the ground.”
Miss Cassy’s jockey Denis O’Regan was suspended for four days for improper riding in that race.