Racing: Geraghty's flair brings Essex home in style

The Irish challenge for the Cheltenham Festival and Tote Gold Trophy, formidable enough as it is, was strengthened again yesterday with impressive performances from Essex and Newmill at Leopardstown. Pertinently for the hopes of Irish punters, Barry Geraghty also served reminder that he is the most formidable ally for the major occasion.

Geraghty, regular partner of Moscow Flyer, the top two-miler and highest-rated chaser in training, remained unflappable as Essex nearly threw away a winning lead in the day's feature, the Pierse Hurdle. Michael O'Brien's five-year-old bounded clear turning for home, but as Mansony emerged from the chasing pack to draw alongside the leader, Essex began to idle. The 5-1 favourite, responding to Geraghty's urgings, pulled out more on the run-in and was a length clear at the line.

"He won the Irish Cesarewitch over two miles on the Flat, so I knew he would get home today," Geraghty said. "He just idled at the last, but as soon as Philip Carberry [on Mansony] came to me, he picked up and had plenty in the tank by the time he got to the line."

O'Brien added: "The horse wears cheek-pieces because he is inclined to look around. He was in front too long and nearly threw it away at the last.

"It is a very hard race to win, and I have been trying for years to win it. The plan is to go for the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury."

Cashmans quote Essex as 8-1 favourite for the big Newbury handicap hurdle on 12 February, while he has been clipped to 25-1 from 33-1 for the Champion Hurdle, the market for which is already saturated with high-class Irish contenders.

When questioned on whether the lightly raced Essex was good enough for the Champion, Geraghty said: "It is hard to say. He is a handy horse and is only rising five, so whatever he does this year will be a bonus."

William Hill have added Essex to their Champion Hurdle betting at 33-1 and have tightened Newmill, winner of the day's novice chase, to 20-1 from 33-1 for the Arkle Trophy at the Festival, even though the Royal & SunAlliance Chase is a more likely target.

Tom O'Leary's charge, one of the best novice hurdlers in Ireland last season, travelled well throughout the Grade Two contest behind Strong Project. The leader was far from fluent at the third-last and Geraghty kicked for home. The 100-30 shot was quickly clear, but tired after the last and had just enough in reserve to hold off the renewed challenge of Strong Project by two lengths. Keepatem, the 7-4 favourite, was never travelling well but kept on to take third.

"We might come back for the Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase on Irish Hennessy day," O'Leary said. "If he goes to Cheltenham, it will be for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, but I want to do the right thing by the horse."

Tom Taaffe unleashed a smart type in the bumper, which he took in 2002 with King George VI Chase winner Kicking King, in Finger Onthe Pulse, who strode home in the same purple and white silks as his stable star.

* Ted Durcan took the honours at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday night when riding a treble, highlighted by his victory on UAE 2,000 Guineas candidate Clasp. The Mazin Al Kurdi-trained colt, who ran twice in Britain for Michael Bell, won a maiden in facile fashion to earn a tilt at the Guineas on 10 February.

Arkle Chase (Cheltenham, 15 March) William Hill: 7-2 Kauto Star, 6-1 Fundamentalist, 12-1 Cloone River, Contraband, 14-1 River City, Royal Alphabet, 16-1 Foreman, Made In Japan, Mariah Rollins, Quazar, Watson Lake, 20-1 Ned Kelly, Newmill (from 33-1), Sir Ojay, 25-1 others. Ladbrokes: 4-1 Kauto Star, 12-1 Cloone River, Ned Kelly, Royal Alphabet, 14-1 Foreman, Newmill, 16-1 others.

Champion Hurdle (15 March) William Hill: 3-1 Harchibald, 6-1 Back in Front, 8-1 Hardy Eustace, Macs Joy, 9-1 Accordian Etoile, 10-1 Brave Inca, 12-1 Rooster Booster, 20-1 Inglis Drever, 25-1 Royal Shakespeare, Solerina, 33-1 Essex, Intersky Falcon, Lingo, Westender, 40-1 others.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea