RATHCORMAC-BASED trainer Jonathan Sweeney was back in the winners at a recent meeting Fairyhouse meeting, and his horses are worth following in the coming weeks.
It was no surprise to see Roseys Hollow deliver a stunning performance in the Follow Fairyhouse 'Racing From Home' Mares Maiden Hurdle.
The lightly-raced daughter of Beat Hollow had previously impressed with winning a bumper around Cork and two fine efforts in defeat over hurdles against some above-average types.
Odds-on favourite Roseys Hollow (10-11) travelled smoothly through this extended two and a quarter-miler for Mark Walsh, and she proved too strong for market rival Global Equity from before the last.
Four lengths eventually separated them and Sweeney will no doubt have high hopes for her going forward.
The runner-up Global Equity brought strong form to the race so Roseys Hollow is certainly one to note going forward.
Another worth following from the Sweeney yard is a horse called Mahler Allstar. Third in his bumper behind Appreciate It, he then contested the Cheltenham bumper, finishing 13th behind Ferny Hollow.
For Sweeney to bring the horse across the pound tells us all we need to know. The son of Mahler made his return to the racecourse over the Christmas period, running an eye-catching race in defeat, finishing third to the Willie Mullins-trained Stattler.
It was a fine performance and should take a great deal of beating wherever he lines up next.
Just last week, Mi Lighthouse finished second in a bumper at Punchestown, for Sweeney. A daughter of Arctic Cosmos, she looked all over a winner in running, but in the end, she had to settle for second. Going on that performance, she will be winning soon.
The likes of Churchstonewarrior is another that will be winning races. A son of Mahler, he ran a superb race in defeat a few weeks ago at Punchestown. Another promising type and he is certain to be winning races for the months ahead.
Sweeney has developed a reputation for over-achieving with his small string of horses, and more success is on the cards.
Shishkin is expected to start as a short-priced favourite in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster next weekend.
Nicky Henderson is favouring the Grade Two contest over an extended two miles as the next race for the exciting seven-year-old ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has made a superb start to his chasing career with two most impressive victories at Kempton and is already odds-on at around 8-11 for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy.
“We’re unlikely to have too many runners at Cheltenham next week. Santini would be the obvious one and I think I’m swinging towards Doncaster’s Lightning Novices’ Chase for Shishkin, while Floressa and Marie’s Rock could contest the Mares’ Hurdle up there,” the Seven Barrows trainer told Unibet.
Owned by Joe and Marie Donnelly, Shiskin will be many people's banker for the festival. During the 1980s, Donnelly, the son of a Cork bookmaker, was a major presence in a vibrant Irish ring in which northern-based bookmakers Sean Graham and Des Fox were among the leading layers along with the long-established David Power.
The Donnelly's will also be hoping for more Gold Cup glory, Al Boum Photo is generally a 7-2 chance to make it a hat trick of straight successes.
All roads lead back to Cheltenham for Al Boum Photo after the dual Gold Cup hero registered a third successive victory in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore.
Making his first competitive appearance since his latest triumph in the blue riband last March, Paul Townend’s mount appeared to face a relatively straightforward task, with just four rivals at Tramore.
Looking at the possibility of adding a third Gold Cup to the horse’s CV, Townend feels his horse is still the one to beat.
“He’s been there and done it twice, so I think he is,” he added. “I don't think he did anything wrong today. He’s won, and now all roads lead to Cheltenham, please God.”
Willie Mullins has won four of the last six Arkles and has unearthed a leading contender again with the French-bred Energumene who is by the same sire as his 2015 winner Un de Sceaux.
A best priced 6-1 for Arkle glory, there's no doubt he represents strong each-way value.
He put up a high-class effort at Naas when making all to beat fellow Arkle possible Captain Guinness by eight and a half lengths, Paul Townend only needing to ride him out under hands and heels to assert after an accurate round of jumping.
Energumene holds Grade 1 entries at the Dublin Racing Festival in the longer Flogas Novice Chase (he won over two and a half miles on his chasing debut), as well as in the Leopardstown version of the Arkle.
Davy Russell rode out last week for the first time since suffering an injury at Limerick in October.
The former champion jockey fractured two vertebrae in his neck and dislocated another when Doctor Duffy fell at the first in the Munster National.
Russell was in a neck brace for months, but recently had that removed and took another important step in his recovery at Gordon Elliott’s yard.
Riding Presenting Percy, among others, the Grand National-winning pilot was delighted to be back in the saddle, and the Youghal man is hoping to back in time for Cheltenham festival.