Slevin and Flanagan on board big-priced winners
J.J. Slevin, the young seven-pound claimer from Kiltrea, Enniscorthy, scored a massive 407/1 double for trainers Liz Doyle (Crossabeg) and Richie Rath (Screen) at Naas on Saturday, and Seán Flanagan from Palace East, Clonroche, had a treble over the two days that would have returned almost 1,900/1.
Slevin rode After Aspen (11/1) for Doyle and the Goliath Syndicate in the €12,000 novice handicap chase. He progressed from fourth in the closing stages to take the lead in the final furlong and stayed on really well. 'J.J. is a good rider and good value for his 7 lb. claim…which made the difference today,' said a delighted Doyle.
Slevin pulled off an even bigger shock in the following two-mile bumper on the 33/1 shot, Richie Rath-trained Fayonagh, owned by J.M. Doyle. He made most of the running and seemed about to be swallowed up towards the end but kept finding and stayed on really well to win by nearly three lengths.
J.J. had gained lots of experience in point-to-pointing, often on horses trained by his father, Shay, at Kiltrea, before going professional; he also gained some experience in England last year and has been working with his cousin, Joseph O'Brien, at Piltown.
Seán Flanagan is enjoying a good season with Noel Meade and the pair combined to win the €13,000 Beginners' Chase on Road to Respect for Gigginstown, having been backed in from 20/1 to 11/1.
Things got even better for Flanagan on Sunday when he grabbed a major Grade 2 double. He won the €42,500 Lismullen Hurdle on the Meade-trained Snow Falcon (5/1), collaring Gordon Elliott's De Plotting Shed on the run-in.
Flanagan was up against the big guns in the day's €45,000 feature, the Fortria Chase, riding Arctic Skipper for the small Halley yard based in Kill, Co. Waterford.
He appeared to be going nowhere three out; Flanagan shook him up to briefly lead but it seemed in vain when he was headed on the run in, but he conjured a final surge from his willing mount to prevail by a short head.
It was an outstanding ride from Flanagan who is having a great season as Noel Meade's leading jockey. He has already clocked up 25 wins and is eighth in the jockeys' championship.
In Britain last week Tom O'Brien continued his recent good run with a double at Carlisle on Monday, Briery Belle (9/4) for Henry Daly and Onenightinvienna (5/6f) for Philip Hobbs in a two-horse match.
Daryl Jacob got in on the act at Huntingdon on Tuesday with a remarkable win on 80/1 shot White Valiant for Jack Berry in the bumper, surely one of the longest-priced winners of his career. Jacob had a more conventional winner at Ayr on Wednesday on 6/4 favourite, Messire Des Obeaux, for Alan King.
On the all-weather at Kempton, Pat McDonald from Taghmon got back into the winners' enclosure after a quiet spell on Dominating (9/2 jf) for Mark Johnston.
Jimmy Fortune had his first win for a while at Lingfield on Friday aboard the Luca Cumani-trained favourite, Brodie (5/4), and he kept things ticking over at Lingfield on Saturday on Hallings Comet (12/1).
The main action for the weekend focused on the Cheltenham November meeting. Two of the best Irish rides on Friday did not actually produce winners but came close.
Mikey Fogarty (Cleariestown) was on Pairofbrowneyes in the £45,000 BetVictor handicap chase for Barry Murphy, son of Ferdy Murphy, who has set up on his own in Waterford after working for quite a long time with Liz Doyle at Crossabeg.
Fogarty was in contention for much of the race and seemed to be in control when Pairofbrowneyes (4/1) led after the last, but after an epic battle up the Cheltenham hill he was collared by former Mullins inmate, Un Beau Roman (25/1), and was beaten by a head. Fogarty's determined efforts were not appreciated by the stewards and he got a massive 13-day ban for use of the whip.
Jamie Codd was on the J.P. McManus-owned Fayette County for Tim Vaughan in the £20,000 amateur riders' chase. His horse was very unruly before the start and unseated Codd but he was allowed to take his place. He eased his way through the field to mount a serious challenge and take third place, despite the pre-race shenanigans.
There was no Wexford success on Saturday, though O'Brien, Jacob and Jonathan Moore were in the thick of the action. O'Brien's second on Colin Tizzard's Solatentif (25/1) was the best result and Sunday was another blank day.