Week in Irish Racing: Un Atout could be Supreme ace in pack as Cheltenham festival hopes book their places

Solwhit showed he still retains much of his ability after his impressive victory in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas and trainer Charles Byrnes can start dreaming of bidding for the major prizes again.

Following his win, Boylesports have cut Solwhit to 12/1 (from 25/1)  for the World Hurdle at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.

Davy Russell was going best in second as they came down the straight and having passed long-time leader Whatuthink, Solwhit came clear by four lengths after market rival So Young made a mess of the final flight.

Leon Blanche, Head of Communications at Boylesports, impressed with his victory, commented: “It was a very good win for Solwhit, not least because that was only his second run in around two years, and he beat a decent yardstick in So Young.”

Charles Byrnes seems to be weighing up his options of where to go to next with the nine-year old

“”I don’t know what we will do with him. He’s entered in the World Hurdle and Aintree would be a possibility as would France after that.

“There would be another race in France before their Champion Hurdle in June. I never mentioned the French Champion Hurdle yesterday, I just mentioned France.

“There are three opportunities over there – a two-mile-three and a two-mile-five as well”

Champion jockey Russell won on all his four rides, including Tofino Bay, who finished well behind Aupcharlie at Leopardstown last month but overturned the form in the feature Grade Two contest, the Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase.

Dessie Hughes’s mud-loving 10-year-old (2-1) led all the way and although odds-on favourite Aupcharlie looked to have him well covered in the straight, they were together at the last and Tofino Bay stayed on best to score by half a length.

Russell completed his four timer when Un Atout demolished the opposition in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Irish Racing Writers Novice Hurdle.

Willie Mullins’ five-year-old (2-7 favourite) showed his potential as he quickened clear to beat the front-running Rory O’Moore by 19 lengths, with the jockey sitting motionless throughout.

Un Atout is now 7/1 (from 14/1) with Boylesports for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Leon Blanche, Head of Communications at Boylesports, commented: “Un Atout is unbeaten in three now and could be the punters’ trump card (pardon the pun) for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.”

“He’s another example of a Willie Mullins-trained French import that looks very classy indeed. Of course, he shares the same sire, Robin des Princes, as, among others, Des Champs. The impressive Jezki, though, remains our 7/2 favourite for the ‘Supreme’ following strong ante-post support.”

Mikael D’Haguenet, who himself has not enjoyed much luck over fences, enjoyed a confidence-booster in the WT O’Grady Memorial EBF Novice Chase at Thurles on Thursday.

The Mullins-trained 1-2 favourite was not hard pressed in winning by two lengths.

“The Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse at Easter is a likely target.

“He’ll be entered for all those races at Cheltenham but whether or not he goes is another day’s work.

“He is a course winner at Cheltenham so we might have a run before then to make up our minds.”

Stablemate Ballycasey (4-6 favourite) also entered the picture for the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive performance in the INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle.

“He’s progressing lovely. I’m happy he handled the ground as I thought it might be too soft,” said Mullins.

“I don’t know if he’ll run again between now and Cheltenham.

“He’ll be entered in the Albert Bartlett and the Neptune and he’s the type of horse that would prefer better ground.”

Another Mullins charge booked his place for the Festival as the Patrick Mullins-ridden Equus Maximus (9-1) claimed the concluding Arctic Tack Stud Hunters Chase.

“I think we’ll go back to Cheltenham in March for the Foxhunter Chase,” said Mullins.



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