There hasn't been much to celebrate at the elite end of the sport when Ireland and Britain have clashed recently, but we can take some pride that our Hunter chasers and Point-to-Pointers are ruling the roost.
The number of trainers sending horses to Punchestown this year in particular has been very limited. In fact, in recent years, most of our top horses have aimed for Sandown's Celebration meeting, which set out some time ago to ensure the home team stayed home. In that respect, it's been Mission Accomplished. However, Punchestown is a lesser event without the spice of international competition, so I hope our leading lights will be back next year.
Not so, one Paul Nicholls, whose successful sally across the water brought success in the Punchestown Gold Cup, where Clan des Obeaux overcame Al Boum Photo and other top flight stayers, and Bob And Co, who nicked the Champion Hunters Chase from under Willie Mullins' nose yesterday evening.
David Maxwell, owner-rider of Bob And Co, is a rarity by today's standards, in not working for a licensed trainer or running a livery yard,as is the case with so many of our young riders. And he's not so young either! Although more than capable I should add.
Not foot-perfect, it didn't stop him joining issue with long-time leader Billaway, a Cheltenham Foxhunter runner-up on two separate occasions, at the second last, challenging all the way to the line to win a nose. Maybe we're not so bad after all.
Bradley Gibbs meantime enjoyed a memorable evening at Cheltenham, when the season was sung out with the annual Hunters' evening. The East Anglian challenge was muted, but Welshman Gibbs, now based in Hertfordshire, flew the flag with a double on Captain McGinley in the Intermediate that used to be the Connolly's Red Mills Final, and Highway Jewel in the Mares race.
Captain McGinley wasn't overly troubled in the Intermediate, and we can hope to see him step up to Open class next season.
Highway Jewel, on the other hand, had her backers sweating somewhat after a dreadful mistake at the 16th, landing on the fence. Momentum and a good seat carried Gibbs through, and whilst headed, she rallied to put in a good leap at the last and win going away. The trainer-rider was having his first two runners at Cheltenham, and maintains a 100% record. That'll do!
Highway Jewel looks a nice sort, and improving. This was her third run of the season, and second win. Her second run was a 3/4l second to the Tom Ellis-trained Late Night Pass at Warwick in February, then rated 8lbs higher.
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