Cork report: The Gatechecker bounces back to form to land National

Sun 3 Nov 2019

The Gatechecker bounced back to form to claim top honours in the Paddy Power Cork Grand National.

Trained by Michael Hourigan for leading owner JP McManus, the nine-year-old was beaten just two lengths into third place in this 50,000 feature 12 months ago.

However, a February win over hurdles at Thurles aside, The Gatechecker had been largely disappointing since – and was an 18-1 shot on his return to Cork in the hands of crack conditional Darragh O’Keeffe.

_Watch a full replay of the Cork Grand National _

With underfoot conditions testing, the three-and-a-half-mile contest was not for the faint hearted – and plenty had cried enough before the home turn.

Having been ridden forcefully, Glorious Galway was still bang there in the straight, but The Gatechecker picked him up before pulling seven and a half lengths clear.

Hourigan said: “I always thought he’d win a big pot, but recently I thought it was slipping away on him. It’s arrived now, and we’ll take it – he has been a good servant.”

It was a significant success for O’Keeffe, who has now ridden out his claim.

“He is a good kid, and you’d have winners if you had him,” Hourigan added.

The Willie Mullins-trained Brahma Bull led his rivals a merry dance in the Grade Three Paddy Power Home Of The Money Back Special Irish EBF Novice Chase under Brian Hayes.

At 16-1, the eight-year-old looked the least fancied of three runners for the champion trainer, but jumped well from the front and came home five lengths clear of Ex Patriot.

Patrick Mullins, representing his father, said: “He continually surprises us, because he doesn’t do an awful lot at home, but he has a fantastic pedigree and is by Presenting.

“Brian deserves a lot of credit, because he got the horse jumping spectacularly well in front. Brian won a beginners chase on him at Tipperary, and that’s what got him on him today – he is a very under-rated jockey.

“I don’t where we go now, but obviously to all those Grade Two or Grade One chases.”

After filling the runner-up spot in Grade Three and Listed company already this year, 3-1 chance Well Set Up secured an important black-type win in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Irish EBF Novice Hurdle in the hands of Ricky Doyle.

Winning trainer Mark Fahey said: “She deserved that. When she hits the front she runs around the place, but she didn’t seem to have too hard a race there and did it well.

“That’s her trip and ground. There is a race back here in three weeks’ time, or we might freshen her up and take her back to Limerick.”

Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore combined to win the opening two races, with Tiger Voice and Minella Melody respectively.

Tiger Voice obliged as the 9-4 favourite in the Paddy’s Super Enhancements Maiden Hurdle, while Minella Melody – a high-class bumper mare last season – justified cramped odds of 4-6 in the Paddy Power Onside App Mares Maiden Hurdle.

De Bromhead said of the latter: “She did it the hard way, jumped brilliantly – and Rachael was delighted with her.

“She’ll come on plenty for it – if she did happen to win here today, I was hoping to aim for the two-and-a-half-mile Listed Voler La Vedette Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in December. There are a lot of good mares around at the moment, but hopefully we’ll be there with them.”

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