Journey With Me remained unbeaten (Donall Farmer/PA)
12 February 2022

Journey With Me firmly on track for Ballymore challenge

12 February 2022

Journey With Me maintained his unbeaten record but was made to work in the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle at Naas

Henry de Bromhead’s charge is one of the main fancies for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month and was sent off the 4-11 favourite to make it two out of two over hurdles.

That was mainly on the strength of the form of his first win – a victory over Gordon Elliott’s Minella Crooner, who went close in Grade One company at the Dublin Racing Festival, while Kilcruit was back in third.

The pace on this occasion was tawdry, so Rachael Blackmore decided to kick on and from there it was all about when she decided to go for home.

Having injected some speed with half a mile to run which found the well-regarded O’Toole flat-footed, Choice Of Words and Pinkerton were still travelling well.

It was not until the second-last that Journey With Me began to pull away but Choice Of Words kept him honest.

The winning distance was three lengths, with De Bromhead’s charge now as low as 7-2 for the Ballymore.

“We’re happy with that. We just said we’d sit him in and see if he’d be happy enough to settle away as he’s always making it,” said De Bromhead.

Nothing is set in stone but I'd say, in my head, I'd be going for the Ballymore

“In a normal race he would have been, but after half a mile Rachael had to go on. He was good, still a bit green in front, but I’m happy with him.

“Obviously further will suit him, I hope. Nothing is set in stone but I’d say, in my head, I’d be going for the Ballymore. That’s two-five.

“We’ll discuss it with connections, today was great and we’ll enjoy that.”

Earlier Padraig Roche’s Brazil (9-4 favourite) got off the mark at the fourth attempt in the Private Security Ltd Cleaning And Maintenance Supporting Kill GAA Rated Novice Hurdle.

The race has produced a couple of winners of the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham, but a trip across the water is far from certain.

“That’s great, he’s after running three nice races and it’s great that he got the job done there today,” said Roche.

“He handled the ground and jumped well so we’re delighted. Mark (Walsh) was happy with him, I’d say it wasn’t the strongest of races.

“We’ll probably stay at home with him for soft ground. JP (McManus) and Frank (Berry) will have a chat and see where we go next.”

Walsh went on to complete a treble, winning the second division of the maiden hurdle on Willie Mullins’ Goven (6-4) before the pair also teamed up to win the feature BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase through 2-13 favourite Elimay.

Elimay got back to winning ways (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

“We’re delighted to win the Opera Hat Chase, named after a famous mare. I don’t know whether Elimay can be as good as her, but we’ll try our best,” said Mullins.

“She’ll go for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase now. Mark was happy that she carried him the whole way and she did everything that he asked her.

“On her last run she was backing off her fences a little bit. The first-time cheekpieces could have been the reason for improvement today or maybe just making the running. She seemed to like it.”

Mullins completed his own treble when Billaway won the Congratulations To Naas GAA On An Incredible Year Hunters Chase for the third successive year.

“He did that very efficiently, very well. I couldn’t find fault in anything the horse did there, he galloped and jumped and did everything you’d want,” said Mullins.

“It’s a great prep for next month (Cheltenham). He needed it badly the first day and I had to get a run into him.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t backfire here today and it didn’t, it brought him on enough. Everything went according to plan.”

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