Reports18 March 2023

Flame Bearer gets his act together for Gold Cup winners Paul Townend and Willie Mullins

Paul Townend: rides Lossiemouth
Paul Townend: Gold Cup-winning rider had more reasons to smile at Thurles on SaturdayCredit: Patrick McCann

If further proof was needed that not much is going wrong for the Gold Cup-winning combination of Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, getting a tune out of Flame Bearer after his dismal display at Navan last time might have gone a long way in providing it.

Despite having a dozen lengths to make up on Navan winner Indiana Jones, Flame Bearer was sent off the 11-10 favourite to land the feature Grade 3 Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase. Over smaller fences and under more positive tactics, he was a transformed individual.

This was the kind of performance that would have been expected before now from a horse who won a Grade 2 novice hurdle for Pat Doyle last season, and connections will surely look forward to Fairyhouse and Punchestown with much anticipation after this.

Still smiling after the performance of Galopin Des Champs at Cheltenham the previous day, Townend said: "He was very good today. We just thought after the last day that we might be better letting him go on and it helped to get him into a better rhythm with his jumping. He liked being allowed to do that. He has a mistake in him but he warmed up to it quite well and he's good at that level."

Rachael Blackmore and Summerville Boy after landing the conditions hurdle at Thurles
Rachael Blackmore and Summerville Boy after landing the conditions hurdle at Thurles

Summerville back to his best

Winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2018 for Tom George, Summerville Boy could yet prove to be another good comeback story for Henry de Bromhead. At the age of 11, he seems very much at home now over staying trips as he made all under Rachael Blackmore to land the 2m7f conditions hurdle.

It was a good performance from horse and rider as Blackmore managed to keep a bit up her sleeve when favourite Asterion Forlonge came to challenge on his first run since the 2022 Gold Cup exactly a year ago. The winner went away from the last flight to score convincingly by four and a half lengths.

Blackmore said: "He jumped really well and it's great to see him back. He enjoyed it out in front and that trip seems to suit him now." 

Where he goes next will be more than interesting.

Fact pummels rivals

De Bromhead went on to complete a double in the concluding bumper, the last race of the season at Thurles, and it was very much a shift from old stagers undergoing a new lease of life to a young horse with a potentially big future as the Robcour-owned newcomer Factual Fact made an impressive debut under John Gleeson.

Gleeson rode the son of Authorized with plenty of confidence and he produced a telling turn of foot in the straight to beat the more experienced Master Otis by eight lengths.

The Champion Bumper-winning rider said: "It was a smart performance. Henry told me to drop him in and ride him with plenty of confidence and I thought he was impressive. He has plenty of speed and he will come on a pile for that."

There was no question of a hangover for the riders. Six of the seven races were won by jockeys who rode winners at Cheltenham.

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Justin O'HanlonReporter
Published on 18 March 2023Last updated 18:23, 18 March 2023