Fennor Cross rules supreme for McConnell at Cheltenham
John McConnell’s Fennor Cross stayed on strongly to land a decisive blow in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
In a race where the hurdles were removed in the home straight it was the winner’s fellow Irish raider She Is Electric that was allowed to stride on with the rest of the field willing to bide their time.
The gap was closed as they approached what would be the final flight of hurdles and although She Is Electric left the ground with a narrow advantage it was Olly Murphy’s Ukantango who had edged in front by the time the runners straightened for home.
However, as they bypassed the usual final flight of hurdles, Fennor Cross was just beginning to hit top gear in the hands of Simon Torrens, and he galloped on strongly up the hill to score at 3-1.
The five-year-old was a six-and-a-half-length winner over course and distance during the Showcase meeting last month and quickly added to his laurels while highlighting himself as a possible contender for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle itself back here in March.
Paddy Power introduced him into the market for the Cheltenham Festival opener at 40-1, and McConnell said: “Credit has to go to Andy O’Brien who owns the horse with some of the guys and said, ‘what about this race’. I said we’ll enter and see. The horse is in great form after his win here a couple of weeks ago.
“We were wrong at the weights with some of them, but thought we’d still have a crack at it. He is still improving. When he won the last day Simon said he was still a baby and it was a good performance.
“I don’t know if he is Supreme quality, but it will certainly give us something to think about anyway. Who cares? He won well, he goes on any ground really, so it is something to think about. He is tough and hasn’t missed a beat all year on the Flat and over hurdles.
“He is just a tough horse and very easy to train – if they were all like that it would be a pleasure. He is very relaxed he was lying down in his box all day today, just relaxed, not tired. He could probably drive the lorry for you! He is a pro at that.”
He added: “We’ll see if there is anything around Christmas. This wasn’t the plan until Monday, so we will see what happens. He is probably entitled to a break and maybe brought back for spring ground and maybe back here in March – we’ll see.”