JUST a couple of weeks ago, we spoke highly of Rathcormac-based trainer Jonathan Sweeney.
In that piece, we selected a couple of horses that should be winning races for the months ahead. Since then, Sweeney has had two runners deliver in style.
Speaking to the Echo, Sweeney said: "Delighted with the recent winners, tis great. You wouldn't have to be setting the alarm the next morning anyway.
"Churchstonewarrior is entered in Thurles on Thursday, all going well, he will run. The weather conditions have affected racing in recent weeks, luckily, we haven't missed a day at home, we have been lucky enough down this way. I've got a few nice youngsters coming to come out in the weeks ahead."
Back to the recent winners, the first of those winners came in Clonmel, where Churchstonewarrior, backed from 6-4 into evens, scored in stunning fashion. Ridden by Ray Barron, the son of Mahler ran out a wide-margin winner of the 2m 3f Thurles Bumper, pulling 16 lengths clear of his nearest rival.
Next up was Roseys Hollow, who created a favourable impression when landing a huge gamble to win a Cork bumper, back in 2019. After than impressive winning debut, she was then purchased by JP McManus.
Available at 12-1 early doors, the daughter of Beat Hollow was sent off a 15-2 chance for the Grade Three Race Displays Solerina Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. It looked like a red-hot affair on paper and it certainly didn't disappoint.
She was tanking along for Mark Walsh and led narrowly at the second last from 11/10 favourite Royal Kahala. Gauloise looked a danger on the outer as Roseys Hollow was ridden to try and get the better of Royal Kahala before the last.
A great jump at the last, Roseys Hollow kept on bravely to make it back-to-back wins.
Speaking to Irishracing.com after the race, Sweeney said: "She did that nicely so it's great to step up again today. I couldn't be happier.
“It looked to be a very strong field. Today was the plan and we'll take one day at a time, I'll have a chat with Frank (Berry, racing manager) and see what they put together.
“You'd be always hoping to have one like that. That's my third Grade 3 win with a mare and my third runner in a Grade 3.
“Minutestomidnight won the mares bumper at Punchestown and Barnahash Rose won the Shannon Spray Hurdle in Limerick.”
Roseys Hollow also has a ladies' bumper in her locker in addition to a mares' maiden hurdle victory over a similar trip at this track last month.
Both Roseys Hollow and Mahler Allstar have entries at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. Sweeney made the trip last year, Mahler Allstar running a big race to finish midfield in the bumper. Time will tell if Sweeney is to travel once more.
"Mahler Allstar had a lovely run at Christmas when he was third to Stattler on his debut over hurdles and he went on to be third in the Grade 1 at the weekend. He has good bumper form behind Appreciate It and ran in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham."
Sweeney started training back in 2013.
A seriously talented trainer, we can expect more big-race success for Sweeney going forward.
The Cheltenham Festival 2021 will get underway with the traditional curtain-raiser – the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
The opening day of the festival takes place on Tuesday, March 16. here may be no iconic 'Cheltenham Roar' to accompany the start of the Grade 1 contest this year due to a lack of fans on-site, but the competition remains as fierce as ever.
Appreciate It looks like the horse to beat for Irish trainer Willie Mullins. He's not as short at 7-4 to get Irish punters off to a flying start.
Leading jockey Davy Russell will miss next month’s Cheltenham Festival after failing to sufficiently recover from injury in time.
Russell said: “I met with my surgeon earlier today – and although he is delighted with the progress I have made, he feels that I’m not quite where I should be in order to ride at Cheltenham next month.
“It is frustrating as I feel I have made giant strides in recent weeks on the road to recovery. However, after talking through things with (trainer) Gordon (Elliott), we both feel it sensible for me to follow advice and miss Cheltenham, as it is only weeks away.
“To ride horses of the calibre of Envoi Allen you have to be 100 per cent fit, and I would be doing the team a disservice to ride when I’m not ready. Obviously, it is hugely disappointing, but it is important to make the call early.
“I will continue to work hard on my recovery and look forward to getting back in the saddle the following month.
“I remain so grateful for all the extraordinary medical attention I have received, and thank you for all your lovely messages of support.”
It will come as disappointing news for many, Russell has enjoyed huge success at the festival in recent years and the Youghal jockey is always a big hit among punters. Hopefully, we will see Russell back in action in the coming months.