Jacob's major treble
O'Brien and McDonald on mark too
It was a little bit like the calm after the festive racing storm for most of last week, but Daryl Jacob kept up his recent strong run and bookended the week with a Grade 2 double at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and a Grade 1 winner at Chepstow on Saturday, the three races worth more than £125,000 in total.
If he and the horses avoid injury over the next ten weeks, the Davidstown man will have some wonderful ammunition to take to the Cheltenham Festival, mostly supplied by his retaining owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. He might be a good outside bet for leading rider at the Festival.
Jacob picked up a near 10/1 double in a couple of Grade 2 races worth £75.000 at Cheltenham on Monday. He had an armchair ride on the Nicky Henderson-trained Vyta Du Roc (15/8f) in the £25,000 handicap chase, winning by 22 lengths from fellow Wexford jockey, Tom O'Brien, on Lamb or Cod (12/1) for Philip Hobbs.
He followed up with the £50,000 Relkeel Hurdle on Wholestone (9/4f), trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, a little over three lengths ahead of Lizzie Kelly on Agrapart (4/1). He almost made it a treble in the concluding £25,000 bumper when second on Malinas Jack, a 25/1 outsider.
Then on Saturday at the re-arranged Welsh Grand National meeting at Chepstow, Jacob and Henderson confirmed hot-favouritism on We Have A Dream (8/11) in the £50,000 Grade 1 Corals Future Champions juvenile hurdle finale by a snug one and a half lengths.
Tom O'Brien was in action at Wincanton on Saturday and had a very nice double. He took the feature on the card, the £20,000 Class 2 handicap chase, very comfortably with Kayf Tara (15/8) for Philip Hobbs, being helped when evens favourite, Paul Nicholls' Antartica De Thaix, tumbled at the second last.
O'Brien had scored earlier on Rainy Day Dylan (a gambled on 5/2) in the opening handicap hurdle for Neill Mulholland by a handy seven lengths.
Earlier in the week, Pat McDonald also got the new year off to a good start with a win on his only ride on the all-weather at Newcastle on Tuesday, getting up by a neck in a £25,000 seven-furlong handicap on Von Blucher (11/2) for Rebecca Menzies.
Jacob and McDonald kept up the good work on Wednesday - the Davidstown man won a maiden hurdle at Ludlow for Nicky Henderson by eight lengths on Indian Hawk (2/1f), while McDonald had another long-priced all-weather winner at Southwell on Zaeem (10/1) for Ivan Fortado, to justify the 200-mile round trip.
The undependable nature of racing was well illustrated on Thursday - Jacob had one ride at Bangor-on-Dee and fell when squeezed for room, while McDonald had a frustrating day at Newcastle with three seconds from his seven rides, beaten less than three lengths in total.
In Ireland there was racing at Fairyhouse and Tramore on New Year's Day, and Paul Nolan's win at Tramore was the only local success. His Peculiar Genius scored under an all-out drive from Waterford five-pound claimer, Dylan Robinson, in the rated novice chase.
This was a repeat of a win on the same card last year and the 'Genius' had half a length to spare over a dogged Blue Empyrean under Andrew Ring. The win did not surprise those in the know either as he was backed in from 16/1 in the morning to 4/1 at the start.
Paul's brother, Jimmy, agreed the horses are running well. 'He jumped like a stag and I'm glad we ran him now. He'll mix it between hurdles and fences from now on,' he said.
There was a keen Wexford interest in the first race of the year at Fairyhouse, won by Davy Russell on Gordon Elliott's Dortmund Park (11/4). Less than a length behind was Liz Doyle's Catwalk King (20/1) under Donagh Meyler from Kilmacow, with J.J. Slevin from Caim taking third on Thermistocles (11/2), trained by his cousin, Joseph O'Brien.
Slevin went over to Ayr for two rides on Tuesday for Steven Crawford from Co. Antrim and he made it pay in a pair of hurdles - he won on Elusive Theatre (3/1) and filled second on Ardean Lass (11/4).
The McCarthy Insurance meeting at Mallow on Saturday saw Noel Meade's two Wexford jockeys involved in the gruelling maiden hurdle over three miles.
Victory went to Jonathan Moore (Adamstown) on the heavily-punted Guided by You (backed from 11/1 in the morning to 11/4 at the off), with Seán Flanagan taking third on Gigginstown's Stoneford (15/8), over seven lengths back. They were split by Roger Loughran on Tom Foley's Therellalwaysbeone (backed from 50s in the morning into 12s).
At Naas on Sunday, Colin Bowe's Golden Flowerpower (backed from 20/1 in the morning into 10/1) came second under Donie McInerney in the mares' beginners' chase, well back from a Mullins hot-shot winner, Asthuria (1/3f), while J.J. Slevin was second in the opening maiden hurdle on Joseph O'Brien's Border Control (6/1), behind Another Barney (4/1) for Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington.