Hidden Cyclone strikes at Punchestown
A Grade One win may still elude Hidden Cyclone but the 10-year-old is a horse the vast majority of owners would just love to own.
He bounced back from a career threatening injury at the Punchestown Festival last April to claim the Grade Two BoyleSports Tied Cottage at the same track yesterday.
Well fancied by connections in the lead up to the race last week, Shark Hanlon's stable star didn't disappoint as he put in arguably one of his finest rounds of jumping under regular rider Andy McNamara to emphatically reverse his Christmas form with Twinlight, as Bright New Dawn split that pair in second.
Sponsors Boylesports cut Hidden Cyclone into 14/1 from 20/1 for both the Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but despite him being second in the latter last season, Hanlon is targeting the two-mile championship race this time around.
Yesterday was his 11th career win but his first since 2013 after a string of placed efforts and a couple of bad falls in between. I couldn't be happier," beamed the winning trainer. "We're used to being second so it's nice to come here and win this.
"The better ground helped, they were giving it as heavy two days ago but it dried out a lot in the last couple of days. He jumped well today, he never put a foot wrong, and I'd say that's the best he has ever jumped."
Hanlon revealed that McNamara, who has rode Hidden Cyclone every day with the exception of his sole bumper win, was initially concerned going to the start.
"He did something today which he hasn't ever done and that is settle. Andy said afterwards that he wondered was something wrong going to the start as he was so relaxed but we've done a lot of work with him at home to get him settled and all the credit goes to my staff, who have put in a lot of work and done a fantastic job."
Looking ahead to Cheltenham he admitted: "I haven't discussed it with the owners yet but I'd imagine the plan is to go to the Queen Mother at Cheltenham next."
Former jockey Shay Barry enjoyed the biggest win of his fledging training career when Bentilimar proved a popular Punchestown winner in the listed novice hurdle.
Owned by groundsman Jim Ryan, the ever improving six-year-old followed up his win at Leopardstown over Christmas to see off the Sandra Hughes trained All Hell Let Loose by three and a half lengths.
Hughes herself had earlier won the maiden hurdle with Total Recall as odds on favourite Open Eagle could only finish third.
Cheltenham winning trainer Peter Maher claimed the opener over the banks course with 20/1 shot Ballyboker Bridge.