Black Op avenges Chel­tenham miss

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING -

CHEL­TENHAM Festival run­ner-up Black Op went one bet­ter with a de­ter­mined dis­play in the Bet­way Mersey Novices’ Hur­dle at Ain­tree yes­ter­day. Tom Ge­orge’s charge found only the much-her­alded Sam­cro too strong in the Bal­ly­more Novices’ Hur­dle at Prest­bury Park and was a 3-1 shot to claim Grade One glory on Mersey­side, with Chel­tenham ab­sen­tee On The Blind Side the 11-8 favourite.

Black Op trav­elled pow­er­fully through­out the two-and-a-half-mile con­test in the hands of Noel Fe­hily and hit the front early in the home straight.

Lostin­trans­la­tion emerged as a huge threat af­ter the fi­nal flight and briefly nosed to the front, but af­ter a stir­ring bat­tle Black Op passed the post half a length to the good. The pre­vi­ously-un­beaten On The Blind Side was un­der pres­sure some way out and proved dis­ap­point­ing.

Fe­hily said of the win­ner: “He’s a tough horse. I was in front far sooner than I wanted to be and he was re­ally tough on the run-in to bat­tle back.”

In the pro­ceed­ing race, Diego Du Charmil caused a mi­nor up­set in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.

The two-mile Grade One looked rel­a­tively un­com­pet­i­tive on pa­per, with dual Grade One-win­ning hur­dler Petit Mou­choir set­ting a high stan­dard fol­low­ing his placed ef­forts in the Ir­ish Arkle at Leop­ard­stown and the Arkle Tro­phy at Chel­tenham.

How­ever, the warn­ing signs were there for his sup­port­ers be­fore the off, as Henry de Brom­head’s chal­lenger got worked up in the pa­rade ring and was free on the way to the start and that wasted en­ergy may have proved cru­cial in the re­sult.

Later in the day, Iden­tity Thief (14-1) took a step up to three miles in his stride to claim the Ryanair Stay­ers Hur­dle.

De Brom­head’s charge is a Grade One win­ner over two miles hav­ing landed the Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle at New­cas­tle back in 2015 and proved he re­tains plenty of abil­ity when fourth in last month’s Cham­pion Hur­dle at Chel­tenham.

Hav­ing never raced be­yond two and a half miles, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned eight-year-old was tak­ing a step into the un­known on Mersey­side, but saw out the ex­tra dis­tance com­fort­ably to record a first vic­tory since Oc­to­ber 2016.

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