1 Alderwood 5/2
2 Trifolium 4/7F
3 Simenon 16/1 5 ran Distances: ½l, 7l, 2¾l
TIME 4m 5.50s (slow by 19.50s)
Alderwood (5/2) battled hard under Tony McCoy to win the first Grade 1 contest at the 2012 Punchestown Festival to fight off Trifolium and take the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle by half a length.
The Tom Mullins-trained eight-year-old, carrying J P McManus’s colours, was completing a three-timer having won a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Fairyhouse and the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on his last two starts.
“I thought we would have to settle for third place turning for home but he fought it out after the last,” said Mullins. “I did give him a break after September so that we could come back for these festivals. The main target was Cheltenham and that came off, so what has happened since is out of this world. To win a Grade 1 anywhere is special, but particularly at Punchestown.
“I haven’t done much with him since Fairyhouse, he did a small breeze five days ago, but that’s it. I don’t think this victory changes our plans - he will still go chasing next year. There are plenty of good horses with J P (McManus) so there are horses for everything. I will talk to Frank (Berry) again, but everyone who rides Alderwood says he will make a lovely chaser so we will see where the summer takes us.”
Owner J P McManus added: “Alderwood is a tough horse. It looked like he had it all to do when Davy (Russell) went past him on Trifolium, but he has done it well and is a good sort. He has a wonderful constitution and in fairness to Tom Mullins, he had him looking wonderful today. I thought we were in trouble turning in, but on the run to the last I was hopeful as Alderwood was responding and Davy was hard at work so anything could happen. What more do I need to say about A P McCoy, he is one in a million.”
McCoy added: “I think that he was improving for winning. I rode him over two and a half miles at Leopardstown, when I just felt that he was a bit keen and he might be better off in a strongly-run two-mile race. Luckily, myself and Tom suggested the County Hurdle rather than the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and it worked out. I actually genuinely think that the horse has got confidence from winning. I think that he has improved mentally for winning as much as physically. As crazy is it sounds, I think that he knows that he has won.
“I am not saying that he is a really good horse yet but all good horses seem to jump and go in any ground. This horse seems to be the same - he loves jumping, which makes a jockey’s job very easy, and he keeps responding for you. He has a great will to win and keeps trying to please you. I keep saying that horses are like people - some of them want to please you more than others.
“They went a nice gallop and I gradually quickened on my horse. Davy was able to quicken a bit better than me but I knew that my lad would stay the trip out well and he did that. My lad may have outstayed anything, whatever way the race panned out. When I rode him at Leopardstown before Cheltenham, I dropped him in and he was a bit keen. That’s why I thought that the County Hurdle would suit him because I thought that he would travel off a really strong gallop over two miles. For a horse to win the County Hurdle, they normally have to stay two and half miles, so he must stay fairly well.”