Jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Darragh O'Keeffe shine at Cork Racecourse

Jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Darragh O'Keeffe shine at Cork Racecourse

Gentlemansgame makes a winning track debut in the Maiden Hurdle under Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Healy Racing

THE Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame lit up Cork’s fixture on Saturday by destroying the opposition on his track debut in the Maiden Hurdle. 

Gentlemansgame, acquired by bloodstock agent Mags O’Toole on owner Robcour’s behalf for €250,000 at Tattersalls Ireland’s November online sale at Fairyhouse after he won a Curraghmore maiden point-to-point for Donnchadh Doyle on debut in late October, got into a lovely rhythm with Rachael Blackmore and the five-year-old led from after the third flight. 

Gentlemansgame had Gjoumi as his closest pursuer until the odds-on favourite gave way from after three out and the triumphant grey then forged clear to slam Mahons Glory by 21 lengths in the style of a considerably better than average sort.

“He’s a real nice chaser,“ said handler Morris of Gentlemansgame. 

“He’s a good genuine type of horse and I’ll now talk to Robcour about where we will go next.“ 

Buttevant native Darragh O’Keeffe, fresh from his Grade 1 success for Henry de Bromhead aboard A Plus Tard in last week’s Savills Chase at Leopardstown, continued his terrific run. 

He landed the Happy New Year From All At Cork Maiden Hurdle over three miles aboard the Tom Gibney-trained Velvet Elvis. 

The recent Fairyhouse runner-up Velvet Elvis made his way to the front after three out and, although losing some momentum at the final flight, he still fought off Mercury Lane by a half-length.

“It’s great to get the win,“ confessed handler Gibney of the Derek Kierans-owned Velvet Elvis. 

“He stays well and I think he will go on better ground, but soft ground would be more to his taste.“ 

Velvet Elvis and Darragh O'Keeffe. Picture: Healy Racing
Velvet Elvis and Darragh O'Keeffe. Picture: Healy Racing

The Robert Tyner-trained mare Exit To The West vindicated the promise of her two recent second-placed efforts over fences by effortlessly justifying favouritism under Phillip Enright in the Thanks To All The Frontline Workers Beginners Chase. 

Exit To The West, owned by Tyner’s long-term patron Richie Walshe, stylishly made her way to the front after the third last and she powered clear under a motionless Enright in the closing stages to beat veteran Mister Butler by five and a half lengths.

The featured race was the GAIN Handicap Hurdle, a two and a half-mile race that came with a total prize fund of some €21,000, and the Willie Mullins-trained Koshari made light of in excess of a 28-month lay-off by returning to the coveted number one slot under his handler’s nephew Danny Mullins. 

The Mrs Susananah Ricci-owned Koshari overtook long-time leader Fairyhill Run on the flat en-route to scoring by three and a half lengths.

“That was a proper training performance from Willie [Mullins] to have him in that shape after such a long lay-off,“ reported Danny Mullins of Koshari. 

“He has done very well physically from the break.“

The Robert Widger-trained Treacysenniscorthy, who is rated a stone lower over fences than he is over hurdles, made all running with Kevin Brouder to triumph in the GAIN Handicap Chase. 

Having jumped superbly throughout, Treacysenniscorthy was well in command when blundering at the final fence and he then stayed on stoutly to defeat Atlantic Shore by four and three quarter lengths.

Exit to the West and Philip Enright win. Picture: Healy Racing.
Exit to the West and Philip Enright win. Picture: Healy Racing.

“He needed the run the last day and we were a lot happier coming here today,“ said Widger of his wife Paula’s Treacysenniscorthy, now a six-time winner. 

“There’s a race in Leopardstown that he could go for now and there’s also a Grand National Trial at Naas on March 14th."

Hes A Hardy Bloke provided trainer Noel Meade with an ideal 70th birthday present by coming home as he pleased in the opening GAIN Rated Novice Hurdle.

The 11/8 favourite Hes A Hardy Bloke, winner of a Punchestown maiden hurdle on his previous start last month, always travelled well for Sean Flanagan as Annie Pender took the six participants along. 

The eventual winner picked up the running after two out and, having thrown a fabulous leap at the final flight, he forged clear to beat Takarengo by four lengths.

Jockey Flanagan disclosed: ”He’s a horse that we thought has a nice cruising speed. He did it easily on the ground and I’m delighted to get it for the birthday boy [Meade].“ 

Westmeath-based handler Dot Love, who recently announced her impending retirement from training, struck with 25/1 outside Betty Zane in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ (Pro/Am) Flat Race. 

The hooded Betty Zane made all the running with Aaron Murphy and, having held a commanding advantage for most of the journey, she scooted clear inside the final furling to account for Cute Cherry by 11 lengths.

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