Sunday 21 January 2018

Cheltenham 2015: One win will for Barry Connell

Connell is confident of Festival success

Barry Connell, owner of The Tullow Tank, at Clonmel Racecourse in Tipperary
Barry Connell, owner of The Tullow Tank, at Clonmel Racecourse in Tipperary

"Cheltenham is the sort of place that could tame lions," leading owner Barry Connell told The Herald on the eve of the biggest meeting on the jump racing calendar and Connell is hoping that just one of his select team can bring him back to a winners' enclosure that he graced as an amateur when riding his own The Posh Paddy to win a bumper in November 2003.

Connell has built up a lovely team of horses that are spread across a range of Ireland's leading trainers and he admitted that he'd be "delighted" if he could walk out of Prestbury Park on Friday evening with just one winner.

Looking ahead to the rest of the week and it was a pleasant surprise when juvenile Gwencily Berbas was allowed into the Fred Winter tomorrow afternoon.

A winning debut for new connections came in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse last month and his owner is hopeful that the Alan Fleming-trained son of Martin Brassil's former Grade One winner Nickname can improve from his latest showing.

"He's a horse we like a lot," Connell told the Herald. "We haven't got him that long and when he came from France we gave him a two-month break and he was only back in five weeks when he went to Fairyhouse.

"We had only brought him away for one piece of work on grass and I thought he'd need the run at Fairyhouse but he did it well and I think he has improved a lot since."

Connell himself is heavily involved with Fleming, who was previously based in England, and admitted that he thought he was going to have to run in the Grade One Triumph Hurdle instead.

"He's a big National Hunt bred horse with loads of scope but I didn't think the handicapper would let him into the Fred Winter and we'd have to go for the Triumph but he had a handicap mark in France and the handicapper left him on that and didn't penalise him for the Grade Two win, which, I suppose, you could say was a hard race to assess."

Thursday is going to be a big day for the Dubliner as he will now also have a leading contender in the Ryanair Chase after Foxrock, the horse named after where Barry Connell now resides, was supplemented last Friday.

"The reason why we were deliberating (about supplementing) was because the horse is only seven and he didn't run in a bumper and only ran in a handful of hurdle races but he is back to where he was before the Irish Hennessy and we are happy to let him go," he said. "As a seven-year-old we felt it would be better for him to run in the 2m5f Ryanair rather than have a grueller in the Gold Cup and it's all a stepping stone for the Gold Cup next year with him.

"He disappointed in the four-miler here last year but both mentally and physically he wasn't ready but we are much happier with him this time around."

The Tullow Tank is a horse who proved his Grade One credentials over hurdles last season and despite impressing in his Fairyhouse beginners chase win, he is yet to reach the same heights over fences.

A better showing last time has his owner hopeful of a bold showing in the JLT Novices' Chase for Sandra Hughes.

"He's coming back to himself after having a couple of issues we had to sort out," Connell reported.

"He jumped great and came to the last with the other horses at Leopardstown and they pulled away so he has that to make up but he probably needed the run and I think he could run a good race."

Champagne James and Usuel Smurfer both get into their races at the right end of the handicap and both can be competitive but it is on Friday that he hopes to end the week on a high with the Mags Mullins-trained Martello Tower.

"If ever a horse was made for the Albert Bartlett, it was him, he's an iron horse.

"He won at Killarney back in May so he'll handle the better ground and there is no chinks in his armour. He met Outlander and beat him giving him six pounds in Limerick and finished second to him giving him five pounds in Leopardstown and I think along with Gwencily Berbas and Foxrock, they have cracking chances."

Connell concluded: "I'm quite happy with everything coming over but, you have to be - there's no point sending them over for the ride."

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