Monday, May 27, 2024

Irish Grand National: Intense Raffles beats Any Second Now to land Fairyhouse feature

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Intense Raffles continued his Fairyhouse love affair to hold off the fast-finishing Any Second Now in a thrilling renewal of the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.

Twelve years on from winning the race with Lion Na Bearnai, Thomas Gibney struck gold again courtesy of the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned French import, who has excelled at Fairyhouse in two starts since his transfer from the continent.

Those victories came in the hands of the currently-injured Daryl Jacob, and Jacob’s misfortune was J J Slevin’s gain as he stepped in to also register his second victory in the Easter Monday showpiece aboard the gutsy grey, who showed his star quality with a brilliant round of jumping.

Always travelling powerfully in the hands of Slevin as he tracked the pace set by Frontal Assault, not even a mistake at four out could halt Intense Raffles’ momentum as the six-year-old eased effortlessly to the head of proceedings.

Keen to hold on as long as possible, Slevin waited until after two out to edge the 13-2 scorer’s nose in front and after jumping the last with a narrow advantage he plugged on gamely to the line as Ted Walsh’s veteran and Willie Mullins’ Minella Cocooner were bearing down with every stride.

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Thomas Gibney and JJ Slevin congratulate Intense Raffles

“He’s a fantastic horse and it’s easy to train good horses like that,” said Gibney.

“Last February was the first time I spoke to them (Munir and Souede) and fair play to the boys.

“It’s very easy for the big owners to go to the big yards, so for them to pick out a small stable like us and give us a horse, kudos to them. That takes a bit of doing and it’s great to repay them.

“When he won here the last time we were just getting to know him and it’s just fallen into place. I could make out like I’m a genius but I’m not really, it’s just the way it worked out – it worked out well.

“I had huge confidence in the horse. People were asking me if I was nervous and hand on my heart I wasn’t because we had huge confidence in him. He’s the best I’ve had.

“He’s just a good horse, when you ride a good horse you just get a feeling that this horse is so much better than the others. That’s the feeling I get on him nearly every day I ride him.

“He’s only six so who knows where he’ll go. It was a dream to win it in 2012, it was so different to today as there was so much expectation today and pressure.”

He added: “I want to say thanks to the staff, it’s a small outfit with my family, my daughters, my wife and a small local team. They are brilliant and it’s great for them, they need it as much as I need it. “I’m getting hugs and kisses, it feels like a wedding! I’m a Meath man and to win it twice is surreal.

“The two lads (Munir and Souede) are on planes, they were hoping to watch it so I hope they did see it.”

Journey with Me ends Closutton dominance of Fairyhouse Chase

The well-regarded Journey With Me (4/1) got back on track over the larger obstacles when running on strongly to end the Mullins dominance of the McInerney Properties Fairyhouse Chase.

Easy Game had won the last three runnings of the Grade Two event and the Paul Townend-ridden Saint Sam slipped the field in the early stages attempting to extend the Closutton winning streak.

Journey With Me saw off the competition in the Fairyhouse Chase
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Journey With Me saw off the competition in the Fairyhouse Chase

Saint Sam was reeled in by the chasing pack with the conclusion of the race approaching and although Mullins’ Appreciate It briefly threatened to get involved, it was Henry de Bromhead’s eight-year-old who took charge in the closing stages to run out a nine-length victor.

“We would have always hoped he was (a Grade One horse). It’s nice to be back on track anyway, this is a great race to win on a brilliant day,” said De Bromhead.

“There are a couple of options at Punchestown, but I haven’t really firmed up on anything. Today was the plan, see how we got on and move on from there. He can be a bit silly jumping but he’s getting there, that’s two good rounds of jumping now.”

Bottler’secret lands Grade Two for Gavin Cromwell

Bottler’secret graduated to Grade Two company in style with victory in the O’Driscoll’s Irish Whiskey Juvenile Hurdle.

British raider Givemefive raced prominently but began to feel the pressure turning for home, with Bottler’secret travelling sweetly for Keith Donoghue having also been to the fore.

Bottler'secret and Keith Donaghue celebrate winning the Juvenile contest at Fairyhouse
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Bottler’secret and Keith Donaghue celebrate winning the Juvenile contest at Fairyhouse

He was well in control jumping the penultimate flight and stretched clear after the last, coming home three and three-quarter lengths clear of market leader Miss Manzor.

Cromwell said: “He’s a lovely straightforward horse. He races lazily which you’d love in a horse coming off the Flat. He jumped really well there today.

“The cheekpieces just helped him travel a little bit better. He was behind the bridle a lot the last day. He went to the line really well and hopefully there is more to come. I wouldn’t say he has to have it this soft, I’d say on the Flat is was important because he probably just lacked a gear.”

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