‘I think we are still only scratching the surface with this guy’.
At Leopardstown, Good Land doesn’t make any mistakes for O’Connell.
By justifying favouritism in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle, Good Land got punters at the Dublin Racing Festival off to a fast start.
The seven-year-old hurdling debutant for Barry Connell made a mistake by defeating Michael O’Sullivan at the first obstacle. However, the two quickly made amends at the major Leopardstown Christmas meeting.
Connell and O’Sullivan entered the two-mile, six-furlong competition with confidence after breaking their Grade One ducks with Marine Nationale in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.
Since it was evident that the pace-setting Weveallbeencaught, a rare raider from Britain at this fixture, was not going fast enough for him, the only question his backers will have had was whether Good Land had done too much in the early stages of the race.
He was sent to the front just before the turn for home and had Sandor Clegane to watch over him. When he cried enough, Absolute Notions started to close in, but at the line, they were separated by half a length.
O’Sullivan punched the air in delight, but he was unable to claim his 5lb because the race was a Grade One. Betfair then made him 5-1 from 10s for the Ballymore at Cheltenham.
“We were expecting that. He was a course and distance winner at Christmas and never came out of a hack canter,” said Connell.
“He hasn’t missed a beat since then and we were very confident today. He’s a quick horse and we didn’t think he’d mind the ground.
“We only gave him one entry at Cheltenham in the Ballymore because we have the other horse for the Supreme (Marine Nationale).
“It couldn’t have gone better, he was maybe a fraction keen over the first couple but then he got a lovely lead off Nigel’s (Twiston-Davies) horse (Weveallbeencaught).
“He never missed a beat jumping, he got a lovely blow into him turning in. He hit the front probably plenty early and he was idling in front.
“I think we are still only scratching the surface with this guy. The big plus with him is that he’s seven years of age.
“We bought him as a four-year-old from one of the point-to-point guys and gave him a run in a bumper. Then he had a few issues.”
He went on: “It’s a big advantage for these horses to have that age on their side. He’s bombproof and you could see him walking around beforehand like he was at a kid’s gymkhana.
“Marine is the same, the two of them are brilliant. We are a small operation, we have 25 horses, and we’ve had two entries in Grade Ones this season and won them both.
“He’s not slow, I won the Albert Bartlett before with Martello Tower and it is quite hard on novices. I prefer the Ballymore, he could drop back to the Supreme if something happens to the other guy but I would need to supplement him.”
On O’Sullivan he added: “He’s a find, he’s ice cool and a brilliant horseman. He rides all of ours and I’m delighted. It doesn’t matter if he claims or not.
“The good thing is that he’s 22, he’s not 16 or 17. He’s been champion point-to-point rider and he’s got his college degree now. He has maturity on his side which is a big help.
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