Slevin hits jackpot
Delight for Doyle at Dublin Festival
Day one of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday was memorable for young Wexford jockey J.J. Slevin, who pulled off a 25/1 shock in the opening €100,000 novice hurdle to record his first Grade 1 success on his first-ever ride in the top flight.
He looked like making it a double on Sunday, only to be foiled by Crossabeg trainer Liz Doyle in the €100,000 handicap chase.
Slevin, from Kiltrea, Caim, was on board J.P. McManus's Tower Bridge for his first cousin, Joseph O'Brien, and was the total outsider of the elite seven-strong field. He brought him from the back with a smooth late run down the outside and got up by a head in the closing strides to deny Jetz (5/1) for Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington. The horse will now be aimed at Cheltenham.
'It was my first ride in a Grade 1. It's unreal and I'm delighted to be given a chance. Joseph has been a big support,' Slevin said.
It was also a first Grade 1 winner for O'Brien over jumps, following his glittering flat career, and he praised his jockey: 'I'm delighted for J.J.; he does a great job for us and gave him a great ride...'
It looked for a while as if Slevin was going to complete a dream double when he led over the last on another 25/1 shot, Three Stars, trained by Henry De Bromhead, in the €75,000 Coral Handicap Chase. However, he was grabbed on the run-in by Rachael Blackmore on Willie Mullins' Patrick's Park to pull off a huge punt, backed from 14/1 early into 6/1.
Again on Sunday, Slevin looked like a winner when well clear on O'Brien's well-backed Vieux Morvan (5/1) in the 22-runner handicap chase, but young Adam Short from Newtown in Wicklow came with a wet sail on Liz Doyle's Last Goodbye (12/1) to romp clear on the run-in, with Slevin nine lengths clear of third. Remarkably, he had a win and two seconds from just four rides over the two days.
Doyle was absolutely delighted and was not too surprised by the win; she had bought this horse herself and it is now owned by a large syndicate that had gathered from all corners in anticipation of a good run. The horse had no luck at Cheltenham last March and it is straight back to the Festival next month.
Samcro was really impressive in his seventh successive win in the €100,000 Grade 1 Deloitte novice hurdle on Sunday for Jack Kennedy and Gordon Elliott and really looks like the next super horse.
He began his career in the care of Colin Bowe when winning his maiden point-to-point at Monksgrange, Rathnure, in April, 2016, under Barry O'Neill.
He was quickly sold on to Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown operation for a handsome £330,000. It looks like good value now.
In Britain, Daryl Jacob ended a three-week barren spell at Sandown on Saturday when winning by a neck on Nicky Henderson's Terrefort (15/8f), from Paul Nicholls' Cyrname (9/4) in the £55,000 Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase, his only ride of the day.
I'm sure he was keeping a close eye on Leopardstown and the impressive win of Footpad for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend in the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase; Jacob can expect to ride him at Cheltenham as he is the retained rider for the owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
He was at Musselburgh on Sunday for the Scottish Cheltenham trials and had two more impressive winners for the same owners - We have a Dream in the Triumph Hurdle Trial and Calett Mad (5/1) in the Pertemps hurdle.
P.J. McDonald kept up his relentless pursuit of winners with four more on the all-weather, three at Wolverhampton (Petruchio 5/2, Murdanova 15/8f and Stellar Surprise 7/1) and one at Southwell (Magic Pulse 1/1).