Djakadam’s striking return to action in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday was the pick of last week’s action and highlighted that the staying chasing division in Ireland is stronger than it has been for a long time.
Any thoughts that Djakadam, the runner-up in last season’s Gold Cup, would be vulnerable over two and a half miles on his reappearance were dispelled. The Willie Mullins-trained horse made most of the running, jumped superbly and brushed aside stablemate Valseur Lido to win by a dozen lengths.
This was an impressive effort from Djakadam and there are surely some big days ahead for him this season. A possible clash between him, Coneygree, Don Poli and Road To Riches in the Lexus Chase at Christmas would really be something to savour.
Also at Punchestown, the Mullins-trained Pont Alexandre captured the imagination with his successful chasing debut as he returned from 998 days off the track. This gelding was a top-notch novice hurdler several seasons ago and clearly retains all ability. If he stays sound, he will go a long way over fences.
Earlier on the card, Yorkhill looked a class act in winning a maiden hurdle with any amount to spare. He was among the best bumper horses in Ireland last season and it won’t be long before he is making his mark in smart company.
Another Mullins charge to take a successful first step on the path to a Gold Cup assault was the aforementioned Don Poli who journeyed to Aintree last Saturday for a smart conditions chase. Last season’s RSA Chase hero faced a good test against the Grand National winner Many Clouds and came through it in likeable style, asserting when required in the closing stages to win nicely. Given his laid-back nature and the fact that his saddle slipped at around the halfway mark, Don Poli couldn’t have done much more. This was a heartening return from him. Also at Aintree, there was a victory to savour for Gavin Cromwell, whose Jer’s Girl won a Listed Hurdle for three-year-old fillies. The understated Cromwell does a fine a job under both codes with his small team of horses and in Jer’s Girl he has a filly that could provide him with a high-profile success this season. She is now two from two over hurdles and has taken especially well to this discipline.
As the 2015 sales calendar draws to a close, last week produced the top-priced lot of the year in Europe when Hanky Panky, formerly a Group 3-placed runner with Aidan O’Brien, headed the Tattersalls December Mares Sale at 2.7m guineas.
The Galileo half-sister to the great Giant’s Causeway was sold in foal to Dubawi and she was snapped up by Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock supremo John Ferguson. The latter also forked out 1.6m guineas for Qualify, who was the first winner of the Epsom Oaks to be offered at auction in the same year as winning that classic.
In all, day two of the mares sales produced a quartet of seven-figure transactions, which also saw MV Magnier fork out 2.1m guineas for last year’s star two-year-old filly, Tiggy Wiggy.
The sale also witnessed a series of expensive buy-backs and the final figures for the four-day auction weren’t quite as good as last year’s and remain some way off those of 2013.
On the whole, 2015 was another good year of trading for Tattersalls whose annual turnover of in excess of 262m guineas fell just short of last year’s record-breaking tally.
Tattersalls chair Edmond Mahony did also express concern at the increased level of supply that has crept back into the thoroughbred sales marketplace, which in turn is creating a greater level of selectivity.