The Betfair Hurdle, one of the most valuable and competitive handicaps of the winter, could be on the agenda for Deep Trouble.
The Ben Case-trained six-year-old, who won in such dramatic fashion at Sandown on Saturday, is likely to return there first before being aimed at Newbury in February.
Deep Trouble could turn up for either the 32Red Hurdle, registered as the Tolworth, or the 32Red Handicap Hurdle on the January 4 card at the Esher circuit.
“He could possibly go back to Sandown in about a month’s time. There’s a 0-150 handicap there. It’s the same meeting as the Tolworth and we might think about that as well as he’s still a novice,” said Case.
“I just think he wants a true-run race. Sometimes novice races can be falsely run. There might not be many runners in the Tolworth and there are usually plenty of runners in the handicap.
“In the Tolworth there might be horses 10lb higher rated than him, so taking them on off level weights might not make much sense.
“In the future he could go to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February if he runs well at Sandown. That race track would suit him ideally. That would be where I’d be inclined to go.
“He’s a six-year-old and is taking his races a bit better than a younger horse and I think he could do with a run between now and February.”
Case reflected on Deep Trouble’s victory in the December Handicap Hurdle on Saturday when he nearly threw the race away after jinking right at the final flight and veering to the far rail, with jockey Leighton Aspell’s feet out of both irons.
“He’d won the race going to the last and has then seen something and got unbalanced. Luckily, Leighton managed to stay aboard,” said the Banbury trainer.
“He wasn’t on him properly but once they got to the rail he got his feet out of the irons and won it well enough. He’d made all round Worcester so there’s no reason to make much of it. Hopefully, it was a one-off.”
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Hurricane Fly made more history as he was awarded the prestigious title of Racehorse of the Year at the 11th annual Horse Racing Ireland awards at a glittering ceremony at Leopardstown racecourse.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old became the first horse to win the award twice. Last month, the son of Montjeu galloped to a world record of 17 Grade One wins with victory in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on a day that saw Ruby Walsh ride a five-timer and Mullins saddle seven winners at two meetings.
Mullins’ brilliant hurdler overtook Paul Nicholls’ outstanding chaser Kauto Star and legendary American Flat performer John Henry as the winning-most horse at the highest level with his eighth course and distance win. He went through last season unbeaten in five Grade One hurdles and in doing so regained his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham.
Hurricane Fly saw off strong competition, with the other nominees being Dawn Approach, Declaration Of War, Magician, Quevega and Sir Des Champs.
Mullins, 57, received the National Hunt honour after saddling an incredible 193 winners in Ireland last season, comfortably beating the previous best of 155. Already closing in on his fastest ever century, he was unable to be present as he has been supervising Simenon in Hong Kong, and his award was accepted by his mother, Maureen.
Johnny Murtagh capped a year to remember when named the recipient of the Flat Award. Long regarded as one of the world’s elite jockeys, the popular Murtagh now has a dual role as he trains from his base on the Curragh, having his first runner in the role through the Sheikh Mohammed-owned Fort Knox in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Murtagh rode 30 winners in Ireland from just 125 rides, and was responsible for 15 winners as a trainer. Royal Diamond served him well in the colours of major backer Andrew Tinkler, and the emotion was there for all to see when the gelding landed the Long Distance Cup at the British Champions meeting at Ascot in October.
Murtagh’s talents remain very much in demand for the big races, as witnessed by the fact he claimed five individual Group One winners last season, including the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in tremendous style on Novellist for German trainer Andreas Wohler.
Murtagh said: “It’s a huge honour and I’m privileged to be here. When you look at the other people in this category I really wasn’t expecting to win. I’m in a wonderful position, I’m training some nice horses and riding some really good ones again and they are winning.”
Kildare jockey Barry Cash collected the Outstanding Achievement Award, which was open to a public vote for the first time, while Wexford native Jamie Codd received his first Point-To-Point Award.
Racecourse of the Year Award went to Dundalk Stadium. Revealing the track would not be resting on its laurels, chief executive Jim Martin said: “We are hoping to build the world’s first floodlit jumps track, that’s what our dream is.”
In addition to the six main categories, HRI presented Jim Bolger with the Contribution to Industry Award.
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Northern Ireland-trained Strongpoint put up a convincing front-running performance to lift the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle in emphatic fashion at Musselburgh.
Peter Buchanan made his intentions clear from the outset and was always in control on Stuart Crawford’s raider, who went further away in the straight to come home 17 lengths clear of Big Water.
“He’s ridden the horse before so he had a fair idea what to do on him this time. He was second on him at Perth and we’re just delighted he’s managed to get his head in front. I was well pleased with his run at Fairyhouse after a break and he’s come on a bit from it,” County Antrim-based Crawford said.
Kealigolane (6-1) also led from pillar-to-post to take the other �10,000 event on the card, the eastlothian.gov.uk Handicap Chase.
James Reveley ensured there was no slouching in this three-mile heat as he took the field along despite his mount not having tried three miles before. Barry Murtagh’s runner kept up the gallop to win by three and a quarter lengths from Storming Gale.
“He’s a cracking horse and has won every season we’ve had him. We were all pretty confident he’d stay and the hood just switches him off a little bit. He’s a very buzzy horse. We’ll look for something over the Christmas holidays from two and a half to three,” the Cumbrian trainer told Racing UK.
Population made the most of a golden opportunity to open his account over jumps when making all in the 32Red.com Maiden Hurdle. Dictating affairs from the start, the 1-5 shot won as he liked by nine lengths from May’s Boy to make the journey from John Ferguson’s Newmarket stable worthwhile.
“He’s a very talented horse, but he’s been a very frustrating horse. We thought he was going to reach a very high level last season and obviously he didn’t. I’m just pleased for the horse and the team. He didn’t have much to beat but that’s the best he’s jumped and the best he’s travelled for a while so his confidence is definitely getting back,” said jockey Denis O’Regan.
“The right thing was to come here and make the running. Hopefully he can build on this. I think he’s versatile trip-wise and will get two and a half and he might even get three.”
The Dianne Sayer-trained Jack Albert (15-2) outfought Brunello on the run-in to win the 32Red.com Interactive Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths. Wearing blinkers for the first time, the bottom-weight had not been placed in 10 previous attempts but finally got his head in front under Brian Harding.
Luctor Emergo (10-1) appreciated the step up to an extended three miles as he romped to victory in the 32RedPoker.com Handicap Hurdle under Wilson Renwick, while Lord Of Drums (5-2 favourite) made all under Craig Nichol to take the 32Red Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase for trainer Lucinda Russell.
Russell and Renwick combined to complete doubles when It’s High Time (2-1 favourite) collared long-time leader Gurkha Brave close home to claim the 32Red Casino Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
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Martin Harley was in superb form with a 147-1 four-timer at Wolverhampton to take his tally for the year to 95.
After landing the opening 32Red Median Auction Maiden over a mile on Dragoon Guard (5-4) for Marco Botti, he guided the Michael Bell-trained Exceeding Power (2-1 joint-favourite) to victory in the 32Red Nursery.
He ended with a brace for David Simcock through Rainford Glory (7-1) in the Coral App Download From The App Store Handicap and Modernism (7-4 favourite) in the Coral Mobile “Just Three Clicks To Bet” Handicap.
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Steve Drowne is to have further X-rays on Tuesday to gauge when he might be able to fly home from Hong Kong after being injured in a fall at Sha Tin on Sunday.
He punctured a lung and broke a collarbone when his mount Jwala suffered a fatal fall in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
The Robert Cowell-trained Nunthorpe winner appeared to be squeezed between horses close home and crashed to the ground. Drowne was stretchered from the track but was conscious before being taken to hospital, where he remains.
His weighing-room colleague Rab Havlin was able to contact Drowne on Monday and give an update on the jockey’s condition.
“I’ve spoken to him. We knew he had a punctured lung and a broken collarbone and he’s also got whiplash so he’s got a collar on,” said Havlin.
“I think they are going to X-ray him tomorrow and have a look at his lung and see when he can fly.
“In the best-case scenario he’ll be able to fly back on Wednesday or Thursday, but if not he’ll have to wait.
“He’s sick about what happened to the filly and he just doesn’t know when he’s going home.”
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