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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England