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Press Release 24th October 2022 Cheltenham

By Nick Seddon

John McConnell admitted that he could get used to the idea of getting one over on Irish powerhouse Willie Mullins, after watching Encanto Bruno (2-1 Favourite) seal trainer his third victory at The Showcase in 2022 courtesy of a hugely impressive performance in the closing bumper.

The four year old arrived here having won his only previous start under Rules at Cork in July and he caught the eye with the way he was able to put the race to bed here, showing a nice turn of foot to pull clear of the field after rounding the bend for home.

The closing Spirax-Sarco Engineering Sustainability Open National Hunt Flat Race is a contest which has been won by some smart performers in recent years – including the 2015 Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer – and McConnell feels that he could have a nice prospect on his hands.

He said: “This is an important one as we thought he was very good. He’s done everything right at home along the way and the race wouldn’t have been run to suit with a slow pace all the way. He’s a baby and he was spooking at the screen going out and coming back in but he looks a proper horse.

“He’s only a four year old so I’d say we’ll probably leave him in bumpers because there’s a whole life ahead of him. He hasn’t had much of a break since we’ve got him so we’ll probably give him a holiday now and come back in the spring for a nice race. He’s going to be a nice jumper in time.”

This was McConnell’s third winner at the meeting after striking with Seddon and Fennor Cross yesterday afternoon, two more than Irish powerhouse Willie Mullins.

And when asked to reflect on the achievement, he added: “I could get used to that score-line! It’s not the Festival of course and there’s harder targets ahead, but we’ve targeted this weekend for the last two or three months with horses we thought it would suit and a lot of them have run well so it’s great.

“It’s hard to compete with Willie and Gordon and Henry at home but we don’t have too many winter horses so we’ll be back for the spring.

“It may be the first meeting of the year and the crowds aren’t quite as big, but there’s just something special about this place. The whole atmosphere is unbelievable and you know you’re going to get a beautiful track so there’s no reason not to come here – it’s the premier jumps racing track in the world.”

It proved to be another afternoon to savour for the Irish, with compatriot Charles Byrnes and his son Philip taking the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle with the well-fancied Shoot First (9-4 Favourite), who justified strong market support with a rolling success.

It was a performance which impressed Byrnes, who revealed that his charge could return here for the Final at The Festival™ in March. He said: “He likes a slight bit of an ease in the ground and he travelled and jumped so well. He possibly got there a bit soon, he nearly threw it away after the last! The Final here would look the obvious race for him and he’ll probably get in now after that win today. I’d imagine we’d put him away now and you probably won’t see him again until March time.

“It’s Philip’s first time riding here so it’s a dream. We thought he could claim 7lbs here but in Ireland it is 25 winners before the amount drops whereas it’s 20 winners here, so he had to tweak his claim.”

Meanwhile, trainer Gordon Elliott completed an 8-1 double on the card courtesy of Chemical Energy (4-1), who tore to an emphatic 61-length victory in the penultimate Jim Wilson Memorial Novices' Chase.

He reflected: “Davy (Russell) said he pulled him out wide for a bit of better ground - he hated it down the inside where it was tackier. He's a Cheltenham winner now who's won a few races and that was a good performance.

“That's the type of race he'll go for, the further he goes the better he'll be. He won't have a run until then. We'll mind him, freshen him up.”


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