Sun plays a major festival on day one of Down Royal festival
Following drama in the first two races, the third and penultimate hurdles and the last three fences were omitted after the first two contests.
In the opener hot favourite ‘Better Days Ahead’ over jumped and fell, however trainer Gordon Elliott still collected with ‘Zefiro Dodville’ partnered by Jordan Gainford out pointing ‘The Busy Fool’ despite the first pair home recording sloppy jumps at the final flight.
Elliott said: “Better Days Ahead was travelling very well. He jumped pretty well up to that but, as long as he is okay, that is the most important thing. He’s a big chasing horse.”
A pile up three from home saw the decision to remove the hurdles plus surprisingly the last three fences on the chase course after the second race.
‘Hunting Brook’ trained by Elliott and Jack Kennedy aboard lead at the last and held the gallant effort of the thirteen year veteran ‘Benkei’ after the final flight.
Elliott said: “It all happened that quick for the first mile that she didn't know what she was doing as they were going that fast but, once she got into her rhythm, he (Jack Kennedy) said he was very happy with her.” ‘Brightdaysahead’ with Jack Kennedy in the saddle asserted two from home to land the Grade 3 Mares Hurdles beating the gallant ‘Banntown Girl’.
The featured hurdle was akin to a flat race with runners only jumping six of the normal nine flights. ‘Irish Point’ scored for the Elliott/Kennedy axis but had to battle to deny runner up ‘Magical Zoe’.
Elliott said: “ We know he wants further, but he picked up and galloped. We are very happy with him. We didn't want to make it, but we had to because there was nothing else to do so. I'd say we will definitely step him up in trip as he really stays. We will keep all options open, but it wouldn't shock me if you saw him going three miles at some stage.”
‘Found A Fifty’ was the best horse on show on the day when winning the Beginners Chase. The winner and second ‘Colonel Mustard’ dominated the race throughout, but the manner of the Elliott winner and the way he quickened in the final half mile was ultra impressive. The Edward Cawley trained ‘Don’t Go Yet’ made all to win the handicap chase from ‘Bythesametoken’ which found the line coming just too soon.
Cawley said: “When I heard the three fences were left out I was concerned because jumping is his forte. There wasn't much jumping! It was a long run home and I said he will definitely get idle. He could have wilted when I saw Keith (Donoghue on Bythesametoken) coming on his outside. He has a good mark over hurdles and we will see what the handicapper does.”
‘Firefox’ with rider Harry Swan aboard having switched due to his intended mount a non-runner is another high class recruit for the Cullentra team making all in the finale to win his third bumper in the style of a top class horse – the winner saw Elliott winning six of the seven races while jockey Jack Kennedy recorded his first four timer.
Elliott said: “I am lucky to be in the position I am in with the horses that I have and the staff and the owners and the jockeys. It is not easy to do it (six winners on a card) so it is a brilliant day.”