05 February 2018

The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival was treated with much apprehension and duly delivered, with 26,000 attending two days of top-class racing at Leopardstown. The first race, the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, proved a milestone in other ways, as TOWER BRIDGE (IRE) provided young trainer Joseph O’Brien with his first Grade 1.

Twice a bumper winner and narrowly beaten in a maiden hurdle last time out, a step up in trip to two miles and six furlongs seemed key to the gelding’s improvement in form. With JJ Slevin donning the JP McManus silks, he was ridden towards the back of the field and showed an impressive turn of foot to make up ground after the final hurdle, beating Jetz (IRE) by a head on the line.

Bred by Ballygallon Stud and by the late High Chaparral (IRE), TOWER BRIDGE (IRE) is a half-brother to a Group performer. They are out of the Group 3 winner and Group 1 runner-up Walkamia, herself a full-sister to Grand Criterium second Walk On Mix, from the family of dual Grade 2 winner and Fighting Fith second Royal Shakespeare.

Next to score was the Willie Mullins-trained MIN, who strode home 12 lengths clear of his nearest rival in the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase. Sent off favourite, he overturned his recent form with British raider Simply Ned (IRE), who finished second on this occasion. MIN continues to reward Coolmore’s decision to acquire his sire, Walk In The Park (IRE), who now stands at Grange Stud.

Willie Mullins doubled up in the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase with FOOTPAD, before landing the valuable Grade B Handicap Chase with PATRICKS PARK (IRE), but it was then the turn of Jessica Harrington, who took the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle with SUPASUNDAE. It was a brave move by his trainer to return to a two mile trip, having not run over the distance in a year, and having since won a Grade 3 and been placed in three Grade 1’s. The gamble paid off, and the eight-year-old won by two and a quarter lengths under Robbie Power, with favourite Faugheen (IRE) a gallant runner-up. SUPASUNDAE was bred to be a top-class flat performer, being a son of Galileo (IRE) and out of a Danehill mare, but never ran on the flat, bar in bumpers.

The final race on the card, the Grade 2 Goffs Future Stars NH Flat Race, saw Willie Mullins back in the winner’s enclosure with BLACKBOW (IRE). The five-year-old was sent off favourite, as he was when winning his bumper in December and his point-to-point last March for Sophie Lacey. The son of Stowaway was pushed to the line by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Rhinestone (IRE), who won his bumper by 19 lengths, and whom he beat by a length and a half.

Tom Lacey bought BLACKBOW (IRE) for €32,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale from Hillcrest Stables. Bred by Bill Hutchinson out of an Accordion mare, he comes from the family of APACHE STRONGHOLD (IRE) and GO ROGER GO (IRE).

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