Melbourne Cup runner-up Heartbreak City finished midfield in his hurdle return at Leopardstown at the weekend as he finished unplaced.
His trainer, Tony Martin, had to settle for second and third through Tudor City and Golden Spear but the pair came up two half lengths short of Ice Cold Soul, who landed the spoils for trainer Noel Meade and jockey Sean Flanagan.
The 9-4 favourite Heartbreak City could finish only eighth. Flanagan had been declared to ride Meade first string De Name Escapes Me but the horse was pulled due to the ground being too quick, so the 28-yearold switched mounts. Seven-year-old Ice Cold Soul led over the last and held a slender advantage all the way to the finish, for only his second ever win over hurdles.
Meade said: “This has been the plan for some time. He picked up a leg injury when he won here at Christmas 2015. We fired him and brought him back in a handicap here last month when he got into all sorts of trouble.
“He had a beautiful run today and was in a good position – in the box seat – all the way. Sean gave him a beautiful ride. I’d imagine he’ll head to Cheltenham for either the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle.”
Martin said that at first he thought that his favourite Heartbreak City was going to catch the leaders, but it proved too much for him. “He’s run very well and looked a possibility going to the last, but he didn’t get home. You’d imagine he’d come on for the run,” said Martin.
“It was a long journey back from Australia and while we were happy with him going into the race you never know the score until you run them. I’ll talk to the boys [the Here For The Craic Syndicate] and make a plan.
“He could go to Dubai for the long distance race on World Cup night but there’s also Cheltenham to consider. We’ll wait and see. I was delighted with Tudor City and Golden Spear. They ran blinders.”
Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott landed another valuable handicap prize for the season, after A Toi Phil finished in emphatic fashion under Jack Kennedy to claim the Coral.ie Handicap Chase.The seven-year-old was sent off the 7-2 favourite for this €100,000 handicap but turning for home he looked in trouble as he was hampered slightly.
Mikey Fogarty was unseated by Then The Paparrazi Kid right in front of A Toi Phil, which looked like would cost him the race. But Kennedy worked hard to catch up again with Stellar Notion, who was prominent throughout and had seen off the challenge of Rolly Baby.
A Toi Phil was actually last at the seventh, but flew home to further help Elliott extend his lead over defending champion trainer Willie Mullins. Elliott led Mullins in the Irish trainers’ championship by €293,737 before the start of racing on Sunday.
“These are the races we want to win so we have to give him a rattle at it,” said Elliott of the winner who was making a quick transition having run in a couple of Grade 1 novice chases on his two most recent outings.
“I would think on good ground he will get any trip and he’ll certainly get an entry in the Irish Grand National. Jack was great on him. He was a lot further back than I wanted him to be but he said he was flat out, he couldn’t go any quicker.”
Yorkhill Ruby Walsh hand-rode Yorkhill (right) all the way to victory, after winning at odds of 1-5. Never coming off of the bridle, Yorkhill did well to extinguish any danger from the approaching Jett at the last fence. Walsh took up the lead with more than a mile to run on Yorkhil and by the time Yorkhill approached the second-last all four opponents were on his heels, but Walsh remained calm and steered his mount to victory without picking up the whip. He was immediately cut for Cheltenham glory by most bookmakers as Paddy Power clipped him into 6-5 favourite (from 7-4) for the JLT Novices’ Chase. The Willie Mullinstrained seven-year-old remains 7-4 with Sky Bet and Betfred.
“He was very strong with Ruby there. He had a tendency to jump left again but he seemed to be all right. We thought we would get a lead from the two horses in front but obviously his cruising speed is greater than theirs,” Mullins said. “He might run again before Cheltenham as the experience would do him no harm.”
Elsewhere the Liz Doyletrained 4-1 second favourite Justmemyselfandi landed the 2m2f maiden hurdle under Brian O’Connell, with 7-1 shot Harold Peto second and the 8-13 favourite Capital Force third.
And Denis O’Regan won the first race at Leopardstown, as he partnered the John Kiely-trained eight-year-old mare Toe The Line to an easy success at 5-1 from the 6-4 favourite Bargy Lady, with Miss Eyecatcher coming in third at 9-1.