Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan has a look at some notable purchases from the Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sales as well as giving a selection in Leopardstown's Savills Chase.

  • Wednesday 18 December
  • Blog
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Horse Trading

Ellmarie Holden didn’t have a runner over the weekend just gone but she still emerges as one of the big winners of recent days after a couple of big-money purchases out of her Coolmeen Stables at the Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sales last Friday.

Tremwedge made £80,000 when bought by Highflyer Bloodstock and Alan King, a goodly fee for one that had been limited on the flat when officially rated 55, but he has shown promise in a pair of juvenile hurdles runs, albeit his most recent effort in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 suggesting he is below the best of his age group. He had been declared to run on Cheltenham’s Saturday card but was withdrawn after his sale.

Much better was the come when her Sir Gerhard, an 11-length winner of a point-to-point at Boulta late last month, topped the sale at £400,000 to Gordon Elliott. The four-year-old Jeremey gelding was one of four purchases for the trainer, albeit two of them were horses already in the yard, Jimmy Jimmy and Escaria Ten, the last-named put down to the Elliott and Max McNeill.

The McNeill family have had just one horse trained in Ireland to this point (Djingle with John Queally) but that may be about to change. Elliott also bought another recent point winner Corran Cross for £130,000 out of the Denis Murphy yard, the evening’s activities suggesting the trainer’s ambition have not been at all quelled by the departure of Gigginstown on the horizon, albeit in the distance.

It would not have been unreasonable to expect Elliott to take a step back in the purchasing stakes with Michael O’Leary no longer in the market for such expensive types but not a bit of it and the trainer seems to still to have big-spending owners available to him. Cheveley Park are one such operation and the trainer has done just about everything right with their runners thus far.

Gigginstown leaving the yard may also encourage other owners, big and small, into it as they now know that their horses will not have to placed around a racing superpower; regardless of whether or not this was a real issue, I suspect it is something prospective owners consider.

By my reckoning, Elliott has had 18 new owners with him in the current Irish national hunt season; quite a few of those are syndicates and smaller owners with one horse, perhaps reflective of the economy going well, but while most of those will not be able to spend major money, there was another significant development on that front at Navan on Sunday where Robcour had their first runner for the yard.

Pencilfulloflead had landed a winners’ bumper first time out at Down Royal last month before being sold privately; he had been owned by Elliott’s head lad Simon McGonagle then and the firm impression was left that his debut was the shop window.

His price is not in the public domain but looking at some of the aforementioned figures he can not have been cheap and while the owners did not get much of an immediate return on their investment as he finished fourth, it was a promising run in a race not run to suit him. The slow pace looked against him and he never got racing room when travelling nicely halfway up the straight, staying on well to be beaten just over five lengths.

Robcour have become quite a powerful force in Irish racing in a short space of time, their runners having been mainly with Henry De Bromhead, Jessica Harrington and James Motherway to this point, but Elliott will have been glad to get in on the act and Sunday was not an unpromising start.

Savills Chase at Leopardstown

Willie Mullins has dominated the Christmas festival at Leopardstown this decade, his 63 winners at the meeting well clear of the next best Gordon Elliott on 25, but the one race where he has a patchy record is the Savills Chase, the feature on the third day of the fixture.

The trainer has had two winners from 28 runners with 7 places in the race since 1997 and while both came in the last four years, this race is typically a starting point for his staying chasers rather than the endgame, those horses typically trained to improve into the February Grade 1 over the same course-and-distance and then onto Cheltenham and Punchestown.

His two winners were Don Poli in 2015 (won a weak renewal by half a length at odds of 4/6) and Kemboy last year and both had had a prior run that season; the six Mullins horses to run in this race on seasonal return since 1997 finished:F36P84 and Kemboy (along with the likes of Al Boum Photo and Bellshill) fit that profile now.

With that in mind, Kemboy may be a favourite to oppose and while it could be argued it was an intended runner at Down Royal in November and should be fit here, I am sceptical that he would have run there even if permitted to be the authorities, Mullins in general wanting little to do with that the early-season race.

Delta Work can be expected to improve for his Down Royal fourth and is a fair price for all that he will need to jump better but the one who stands out at the current prices is PRESENTING PERCY.

He could hardly have had a better prep for this race than his third in the John Durkan when a big drift in the betting suggested the run was needed. He jumped and travelled well over a trip too sharp, staying on after getting outpaced, not given a hard time by his rider.

The staying novice chasers of 2017/18 proved a strong crop last season, producing a number of big race winners, and while Presenting Percy was the pick of them at the time, he never got the chance to show it last term. Leopardstown on the 28th December provides a good opportunity to make up for lost time.

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Leopardstown 15:05, 28 December 2019

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