There was no joy for the Irish trained runners in the 2019 renewal of the Cheltenham Foxhunters with the race going the way of the Philip Rowley-handled Hazel Hill.
The 11-year-old son of Milan, who is an Irish point-to-point graduate having run four times as a six-year-old for Cork handler Patrick Moakley, stated his case for Foxhunters glory with his 11-length victory at Warwick recently, and the confidence behind him following that run saw him take over from Ucello Conti as the favourite before the off, being sent off as the well-supported 7/2 market leader.
Run to its usually strong tempo with leading contender Road To Rome setting a strong tempo, it was only Barry O’Neill’s British-trained mount Asockastar that was positioned close to the pace, with the Irish-trained horses, including Ucello Conti and Stand Up And Fight dropped out off the strong pace.
O’Neill’s mount began to give way from the third-last as the front four went on, and in the end, it was that quartet that fought out the finish, with nothing able to come from off the pace to challenge.
Favourite supporters had few moments of worry, with the Alex Edwards-ridden bay putting in a big leap of the last, and only having to avoid the loose running Timewaitsfornoone on the run-in to get the better of Shantou Flyer for Northern Irish-born David Maxwell by four lengths.
Ucello Conti under Jamie Codd was the first of the Irish horses to finish in fifth, with Stand Up And Fight in sixth and they were the only two Irish-trained horses to complete the 3m 2f course, whilst Barry O’Neill brought Asockastar home to take eighth.
Coastal Tiep couldn't pick-up from mid-pack under Ben Crawford and pulled-up at the last, Susie Doyle had a great spin around aboard Samanntom before calling it a day at the second-last, the same point in the race that Chosen Dream and Mark O'Hare also pulled-up.
Patrick Mullins pulled-up his stablemate Balnaslow at the third-last having been struggling for a long way, whilst Timewaitsfornoone parted company with Richie Deegan at the first, and Gerry Spain was unseated from Some Are Lucky at the 11th fence.