The Francois Nicolle-trained FELISSA (Diamond Boy) completed a hat-trick of wins when taking the Prix Louis Dubourg at Jarnac on Sunday.
It marked a returned to hurdles, having scored over steeplechase fences twice last month, with Lea Suisse back aboard for her latest start. She led from the second flight, extending her advantage to two lengths from halfway and quickened when challenged by Potemkine two furlongs out. The rest of the field struggled as the leading pair turned for home, the grey running on well under hands and heels to win by three lengths, with all of 30 lengths back to the third horse.
Felissa was bred by SASU Hambletonian and races in a partnership of her trainer and Jean-Luc Henry. She becomes the second winner out of her dam Nauzaca, herself a Listed performer over steeplechase fences.
DAGOBOY (Diamond Boy) extended his unbeaten record to three when taking the Prix de Bourbon-Busset over hurdles at Vichy on Sunday.
Successful on debut as a three-year-old, the now five-year-old made an overdue return last month and impressed with a winning margin of 11 lengths. Bertrand Lestrade kept the ride on Sunday and positioned him to track the leaders until asserting at halfway. Picking up the pace along the back straight, he ran on well when challenged at the final flight and scored by two and a half lengths.
Trained by Guillaume Macaire for Haras de Montgermont and breeder Olivier Tricot, Dagoboy is a half-brother to the Listed-placed Bathilde.
FELISSA (Diamond Boy) ran out an impressive winner of the Prix du President Georges Ridel, a steeplechase for four-year-old maidens at Questembert on Sunday.
The Francois Nicolle-trained mare was making her chase debut, having shown promise on her two previous starts over hurdles and was stepping up to two miles and two and a half furlongs on her latest start.
Tracking the leader for much of the way, her pilot Lea Suisse remained patient as the field bunched together along the back straight and was travelling well in the leading trio as they turned for home. The grey asserted the advantage entering the straight and ran on well under hands and heels to score by seven lengths.
Felissa was bred by SASU Hambletonian and races in a partnership of her trainer and Jean-Luc Henry. She becomes the second winner out of her dam Nauzaca, a Listed performer over steeplechase fences herself.
The Francois Nicolle-trained OTCHOA ROUGE (Diamond Boy) defied a long lay-off to run out a comfortable winner of the Prix Etienne Balsan at Compiegne on Wednesday.
Placed on both his previous starts, the bay was last seen chasing home Adjali last April, with the winner since placed in two Grade 1 contests. On his latest start, he led from the final flight and was pushed out by Gaetan Masure to score by three lengths.
Owned by Madame Patrick Papot and bred by X. Leredde, Otchoa Rouge is closely related to Oliver Sherwood’s five-time winner Rouge Et Blanc and is a half-brother to the same owner’s Listed winner Red Name.
PRECIOUS CARGO continued a terrific week for Kilbarry Lodge Stud when running out an impressive winner of the two mile Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown on Friday.
Sent off favourite for his winning hurdle debut in January, the Nicky Henderson-trained colt was once again ridden by Nico de Boinville. Held up in midfield, the six-year-old made good progress from three out and led soon after, drawing clear with minimum fuss to score by eight lengths on the line.
Henderson commented after the race, “Precious Cargo is a fine beast and a bit of a bruiser of a horse and he’s just messing around over hurdles this season, but it is exciting to think what he could do over a fence. He could be a Cheltenham horse this time next year but at the moment he still has a lot to learn.”
The Thomas Barr-owned gelding was bred Con O’Keeffe and is a half-brother to Embittered, who finished third in a Grade 2 bumper last month. Their dam, Kilbarry Classic (Classic Cliche), won a bumper herself and is a granddaughter of Listed hurdle winner Tropical Lake.
KILBARRY CALLING made it two winners in three days for the Con O’Keeffe stable when taking the EBF Mares Beginners Chase at Thurles on Thursday.
The Kilbarry-bred mare finished a close second at Leopardstown on Monday and dropped back in trip to two miles and two furlongs on her latest start. Tracking the leader under Davy Russell, she jumped well throughout and led from the third last fence. Pushed out in the straight, she held off a challenge by A Girl Like Me to win by three parts of a length, with another seven and a half lengths back to the third horse.
O’Keeffe, who trains the winner for Mrs O’Keeffe and Tadhg O’Sullivan, later commented, “It is great to get a win with her and her sister won for us as well. She is a huge mare and if anyone wants to buy her all the better.”
The sister in question, Kilbarry Cushty (Classic Cliche), won a maiden hurdle, while Kilbarry Lodge Stud sold a half-brother at last year’s November NH Sale for €27,000 to Richard Rohan. Their dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Racing Demon and to the dam of Irish Grand National third Abolitionist. The top-class Merry Gale and Brave Inca feature further down the page.
Kilbarry Lodge Stud enjoyed a terrific Monday at Leopardstown, when Kilbarry Lilly (Classic Cliche) ran out an easy winner of her maiden hurdle, followed by finishing a close second in the finale, with both homebreds trained by Con O’Keeffe.
Having won a four-year-old mares maiden at Boulta in December, Kilbarry Lilly finished third on her hurdle debut the following month and stepped up to two and a half miles on her latest start. Ridden to chase the leaders by Davy Russell, she made good headway on soft ground to lead from the second last and extended her advantage to four and a half lengths on the line.
Russell was impressed by the winner, later commenting, “Jumped fantastic and travelled well throughout the race and obviously stayed on well towards the line. Two and a half in that ground was ideal for her you know.”
Kilbarry Lilly is owned by Mrs O’Keeffe and Tadhg O’Sullivan, as is Kilbarry Calling, who was beaten just half a length in the Beginners Chase later in the day.
Kilbarry Lilly was bred by Thomas O’Keeffe out of the Saddler’s Hall mare Tropical Lilly, making her a full-sister to John Kiely’s bumper winner Kilbarry Classic, now the dam of Grade 2 performer Embittered, bred by Con O’Keeffe.
Tropical Lilly is a half-sister to Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes winner Tropical Lady and Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner Wilamina. The second dam, meanwhile, won a Lusted hurdle and comes from the family of dual Graded hurdle winner Megans Joy.
Grand Sancy continued a fantastic season for his sire Diamond Boy when taking the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
Paul Nicholls’ progressive five-year-old was last seen in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle, in which he was beaten just half a length into second. That performance gave connections the confidence to pitch him against his elders, leaving Grand Sancy the sole novice in the five horse field on Saturday.
Ridden to track the leaders by Harry Skelton, the bay improve to lead at the second last and showed a game attitude to fight off continuous challenges, knuckling down to the line, where he prevailed by three parts of a length. The favourite and previous Grade 1 winner Sceau Royal was relegated to runners-up honours, half a length in front of the talented Vision Des Flos.
Megan Nicholls represented her father and later commented, “That was a proper performance from both horse and jockey as they both showed that grit and determination all the way up the straight to win. Grand Sancy is a real streetwise and hardy type who takes his racing really well. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham will be his next stop as this would have put him spot on for that.”
Grand Sancy is now generally 14-1 for the Supreme, with Nicholls adding, “Harry has come back and said that he really wants a faster pace to be seen at his best, and there’s no doubt he will get just that at Cheltenham as they certainly do not hang about in that race.”
Grand Sancy always delivers for owners Martin Broughton Racing Partners, having won of been places in nine of his 13 starts. Bred by Dr Vet Brigitte Poulve, he is the first foal out of the mare, herself a winner over hurdles and fences.
Valdieu continued a fantastic run for his sire Diamond Boy when effortlessly casting aside his rivals in the maiden hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
Last seen winning his bumper at Down Royal by 10 lengths, Noel Meade’s charge was sent off second-favourite of 18 runners. Ridden to chase the leaders by Sean Flanagan, the bay was travelling well when leading from two out and soon went clear, drawing away under hands and heels to score by six and a half lengths.
An elated Noel Meade commented after the race, “We’ve always thought the world of him and every time we went to the races we thought he would win and he got beat and I couldn’t believe it. He’s a smart horse and what I like about him is he’s going forward – when he sees a hurdle all he wants to do is go and jump it and get to the far side of it.”
When quizzed on future plans for the Gigginstown House Stud owned winner, Meade said, “I’d say there is every possibility of him going to the Dublin Racing Festival. I hope he is a Grade One horse. He’s a beautiful mover and he’s a gorgeous-looking horse and he jumps extremely well.”
Monsieur Lecoq (Diamond Boy) continued his upward curve when taking the Class 2 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. The Jane Williams-trained five-year-old was following up on an impressive maiden hurdle victory in mid-December over the same distance of two miles.
Sent off favourite under regular pilot Lizzy Kelly, the bay tracked the leader until two out, from which he attained the advantage and quickened to go clear before the final flight. Galloping home strongly, he led by nine lengths on the line.
He was continuing a stand-out day for his young sire, with Diamond Boy’s fellow five-year-old son, Grand Sancy, having finished second in the day’s feature Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. Beaten half a length, the Paul Nicholls-trained hurdler has now gained quotes of 16-1 for the Supreme Novice at the Cheltenham Festival.