Racing UK

Five things we learnt on Easter Monday - Harrington and Power set Gold standard

Monday 17 April 2017

From Jessica Harrington unearthing another Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate in Our Duke to Dan Skelton's stable bouncing back from a Sunday tragedy, Tom Peacock looks at the five things we learnt on Easter Monday. 

By Tom Peacock


Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power combined to win last month’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John and the pair might very well have already unveiled another candidate for next year’s race. 

Our Duke, who is still a novice, won the BoyleSports Irish Grand National with a rare degree of authority for such a competitive, large-field handicap and is now being quoted at no better than 14-1 for the Festival’s main event.

While the Irish National is often a good pointer for Aintree, Our Duke was so impressive off a mark of 153 that his re-evaluated rating will surely put him right at the top of the weights there. Our Duke is 25-1 for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National.


Dan Skelton’s yard experienced one of the upsetting lows of National Hunt racing when losing The Bay Oak, who collapsed and died after winning the West Wales National at Ffos Las on Sunday

There will be at least happier memories from the end of the Easter weekend, however, with Skelton continuing to raise the bar despite setting remarkable standards in his first four seasons with a licence.

The trainer will beat last season’s best of 104 by a substantial margin and finished up the action at Huntingdon with four winners, three ridden by his brother Harry. Pick of them was Hatcher, who scooted clear in the bumper and could be one of those to give the Skeltons a flying start into next term if kept going in novice hurdles.


It pays to think slightly out of the box sometimes and trainer John Quinn was rewarded for doing so when Project Bluebook picked up decent money in the Avoca Dunboyne Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

The four-year-old hurdling division has not looked strong, bar the Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, and this Grade Two event was eminently winnable for a horse that had finished fourth in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

Project Bluebook did have to scrap it out to pass Dandy Mag and Ex Patriot but was rewarded with the €29,500 (£24,980) first prize, a pot which would have been hard to find if he had stayed in Britain.


Even if he recently turned 86, there is no stopping Mick Easterby. The form of Yorkshire racing’s talisman has been impressive through March and April, as he added a treble at Redcar to the same tally at last week’s meeting. 

A Classic-winning trainer 40 years ago, Easterby has flirted with retirement but never seems happier than on a racecourse. While not known for sartorial elegance, he was resplendent at the Cleveland track in a blue cravat on Monday.

Perhaps the colour was propitious as Roller absolutely bolted up in blue silks in the Racing UK Straight Mile, the lightly-raced ex-French gelding looking a long way ahead of the handicapper’s clutches. 


Josephine Gordon accepts that occasionally she will be passed over for Hugo Palmer’s highest-profile rides, but will hope that there will be many more winners to come after their first success on the turf together this season. 

Last season’s champion apprentice, who was signed up as a trusted foot soldier by Palmer both on the gallops and on the track, went all the way to Redcar principally for the mount on Carigrad in a division of the mile maiden.

Gordon had to be fairly relentless in keeping Carigrad interested before pushing him past the favourite Armandihan close home.


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