The second race of the afternoon over the Grand National fences saw another fine front-running performance. This time it was Black Apalachi who prevailed under Denis O’Regan and unlike the Grand Sefton winner Endless Power he galloped resolutely all the way to the line to secure success in the £120,000 Listed totesport.com Becher Chase.
The 15/2 chance came home a distance clear of last year’s winner Mr Pointment in the three-and-a-quarter mile event with his stablemate Oulart a further half-length back in third.
Richard Hughes, representing his trainer father Dessie, said: “That was great. The horse likes to be handy and he liked the ground out there today.
“The ground probably went against our other runner Oulart and just found him out. We brought both of them over and hoped that the ground would suit one of them.
“This race has been a good Grand National trial in the past and I would say he would be back here in the spring for the National. He does need the ground to be on the soft side though.”
Successful jockey Denis O’Regan commented: “I would just like to say I am very grateful to Graham Wylie for letting me get off Ellerslie George to ride this horse. I would have struggled to do 10st but would have done if I had had to.
“I finished second in last year’s Becher Chase on Bewleys Berry when Mr Pointment dictated from the front. I think that if I had employed similar tactics last year, the result might have been different.
“After the Grand Sefton earlier today, I thought it was a good idea to get out in front and into a rhythm. This horse is a good jumper. He is not too exuberant but is very accurate and didn’t burn too much fuel early in the race. The further he goes the better.
“It’s hard to make ground up when it is riding soft, and to get out in front and into a rhythm is very important I think. He has given me a fantastic ride and done very well.
“Riding over these fences is just like a day’s hunting. It is very enjoyable and I think that it is important to get the horse enjoying it as well. Fair play for Dessie putting me up.”
Owner Gerard Burke added: “It is a special day - a great performance. Black Apalachi ran in the last John Smith’s Grand National and came down at the second when he over jumped. Today’s performance was very encouraging and I think we will be back in April.”
Becher Chase sponsors make Black Apalachi a 16/1 chance for John Smith’s Grand National glory next year, as do Paddy Power. Stan James offer 20/1 while Ladbrokes were least impressed and go 33/1.
This was the second Irish-trained success in the totesport.com Becher Chase following the success of Garvivonnian in 2005.
MR POINTMENT MISSES SECOND SUCCESS
A change of tactics for Mr Pointment were apparent from the off in the totesport.com Becher Handicap Chase as the 2007 winner was dropped out in the early stages by jockey Sam Thomas. The partnership made significant progress as the race developed taking the shortest route at the Canal Turn before Mr Pointment’s stamina ran out and the horse almost pulled up inside the final furlong but then got going again when joined by other horses and ran on to regain second.
Thomas said: “He was giving a lot of weight away today and I’m happy with him.”
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls revealed that riding plans had been changed and remarked: “That’s the way to ride him, take your time on him. With decent ground he’d be alright.
“He just takes a bit of warming and we can ride him like that in the National.
“If he was dropped in the handicap, it would give him half a chance in the National.
“That ground doesn’t suit him, I knew he’d run out of petrol. It’s very deep out there now.
Commenting on the disappointment of Kauto Star at Haydock yesterday, Nicholls said: “That’s racing, we’re looking forward to next weekend now.
“You’ve got to keep the whole team looking forward.
“He (Kauto Star) is 100% sound today and he ate up.
“We’ll try and get him back to his very best for Boxing Day for the Stan James King George VI Chase.”
1. BLACK APALACHI (IRE) (Gerard Burke) Dessie Hughes IRE 9-10-05 Denis O’Regan 15/2
Winning Trainer DESSIE HUGHES Born: October 10, 1943 Based: Osborne Lodge, Kildare, Co Kildare, Ireland Background: A highly successful jockey, Dessie Hughes partnered Davy Lad to win the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup and returned to Prestbury Park three years later to ride the diminutive Monksfield to victory in the Champion Hurdle. Having always had one eye on the future, Dessie prepared his yard for three years before finally taking out a training licence in 1980 and the winners soon started flowing, including a first Cheltenham Festival victory as a trainer when Miller Hall took the 1982 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. His yard was struck down by a persistent fungal problem in the late 1980s which resulted in Dessie enduring several years of poor form, but the yard began churning out the winners again in the late 1990's, with horses such as Guest Performance, Rathbawn Prince and Grade One winner Colonel Braxton being standard bearers. But it was Hardy Eustace who provided Hughes with some of his finest hours as a trainer. Owned by long standing patron Lar Byrne, the Archway gelding won the Grade One Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at the 2003 Cheltenham Festival before returning a year later to win the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle under a superbly judged ride from Conor O’Dwyer. Hardy Eustace went on to victory at the Punchestown Festival and returned to Prestbury Park the following year for another win in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, becoming the first horse since Istabraq to successfully defend his crown. Central House became another outstanding performer for Dessie, winning five Grade Two contests as well as a Grade One Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown. More recently, Schindlers Hunt has emerged as another superstar, winning two Grade One events as a novice chaser. Dessie also holds the notable feat of saddling a winner on nine consecutive racing days over the 2006 Christmas period. Cheltenham Festival Wins (5): Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1982 Miller Hill), Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle (2003 Hardy Eustace), Smurfit Champion Hurdle (2004 & 2005 Hardy Eustace), Pertemps Final (2005 Oulart) Aintree Festival Wins include: Citroen C4 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2003 Leinster) Other Big Race Wins: totesport.com Becher Chase (2008 Black Apalachi), Coral Ascot Hurdle (2006 & 2007 Hardy Eustace), Durkan New Homes Novice Chase (2006 Schindlers Hunt), Isuzu Chase (2000 Rathbawn Prince), Fortria Chase (2005 Central House), Hilly Way Chase (2005 Central House), Tied Cottage Chase (2006 Central House) Irish Champion Hurdle (2007 Hardy Eustace) Baileys Arkle Perpetual Challenge Cup (2007 Schindlers Hunt), Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (2002 Hardy Eustace), Punchestown Champion Hurdle (2004 Hardy Eustace), Irish Champion Hurdle (2007 Hardy Eustace), Maplewood Developments Hurdle (2008 Hardy Eustace) Number of Winners in Britain (2002/03-2007/08): 2; 2; 2; 0; 1; 2; Wins this Season (in Britain):1
Winning Jockey: Denis O’ Regan Based: Rode out at yard ran by cousin John Crowley, before spending a summer with Francis Flood when sixteen, returning to the yard after finishing his education. Rode first winner for Flood aboard All Honey on April 20, 2001. O’Regan rode 13 winners as an amateur before turning professional at Downpatrick in September, 2003. Born in Youghal, Co Cork, on March 24, 1982, to Denis and Derleine O’Regan, the jockey has no family involvement in racing – his father runs Lombards Pub in Youghal. O’Regan is good friends with Niall Madden - who rode Numbersixvalverde to victory in the 2006 John Smith’s Grand National. He joined the powerful Co Durham stable of Howard Johnson in the summer of 2007 but prior to that his biggest victory came on Ansar in the 2005 Galway Plate for trainer Dermot Weld and a few months later he rode his first Cheltenham winner when the Michael Hourigan-trained Church Island won a novices’ chase at The Open meeting held in November. In October, 2006, at Wexford, he rode his first treble on Hard Scuffle and Irish National for boss Noel Meade, and Mission Impossible for Philip Rothwell. He enjoyed a fantastic start to his association with Johnson and owners Andrea & Graham Wylie in the 2007/08 season. O’Regan partnered two winners for the connections at the Cheltenham Festival in March, guiding Tidal Bay to success in The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy and sealing an historic win aboard Inglis Drever in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, a third triumph in the race for the great horse.Aintree Festival Wins: John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase (2008 Tidal Bay) Cheltenham Festival Wins (2): Ladbrokes World Hurdle (2008 Inglis Drever), Irish Independent Arkle Trophy (2008 Tidal Bay) First Cheltenham Festival Win: Tidal Bay, Irish Independent Arkle Trophy, March 11, 2008 First winner at Cheltenham: Church Island (Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase, November 11, 2005) Big Race Wins: totesport.com Becher Chase (2008 Black Apalachi), Galway Plate (2005 Ansar), Champion Novice Chase (2007 Offshore Account), Boylesports.com Gold Cup (2007 Tamarinbleu) Wins in Britain 2003/04-2007/08): 0; 0; 1; 1; 57; Wins This Season: 31
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