The Big Dog has his day as amateur aces Codd and O'Connor shine bright
If there is one positive to take out of the point-to-point suspension, it is the prospect of Sundays being brightened up by Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor.
Two of the finest riders to have ever pulled on a pair a breeches, Codd and O’Connor reminded everyone they are amateurs in name only when landing the two feature races.
Codd had to fight tooth and nail to win the €80,000 Grand National Trial aboard Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog, whereas O’Connor had a slightly easier task guiding Shady Operator to victory in the PP Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase on his debut for Enda Bolger.
A maiden coming into the 3m4f National Trial, The Big Dog was hammered in the betting and sent off 5-2 favourite and, while the winning margin over Screaming Colours reads half a length, he was value for a bit more given he idled badly in front.
Fahey explained: “He’s a great horse. His runs in his beginners' chases were good after being off for a year and I’m delighted for the Kellys [owners] as they are huge supporters of racing.”
He added: “The Big Dog is lairy, he’s tricky enough and you have to make plenty of use of him. It wasn’t working in beginners' chases because, no matter how much you try and force it with him, he was losing half a length jumping.
“His jumping was brilliant today until he took it up. He just looks around. He hasn’t been overrated and hopefully he can improve. He’ll stay in those good staying handicap chases as long as the ground is good and heavy. If it came up heavy he could run in the Irish Grand National; he’ll definitely get an entry.”
Codd is more associated with booting home bumper winners for Fahey but the decision to inquire about the leading amateur's availability in the week proved an inspired one.
Fahey said: “I spoke to Jamie during the week. He told me he'd never done overweight in his life and to put him down to ride. It was well worth it in the end.”
Bolger deservedly wears the king of the banks crown and, following a brief spell without a flagbearer in the discipline, he seems to have found another ace in Shady Operator.
Formerly a decent handicapper for Joseph O’Brien, the JP McManus eight-year-old seemed to relish the change of discipline, recording a notable first cross-country success for O’Connor.
Bolger said: “He did it well. He’s an experienced handicapper but it was his first time over the course. He’d taken well to the banks at home and Derek said he was very professional.”
He added: “We’ll see now how he is after this. I don’t know whether he’d be good enough to go to Cheltenham. He could be a horse for here but we’ll see when we get him home and talk to the boss man. It’s Derek’s first winner over the banks.”
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