02 January 2018

Tattersalls Ireland graduates enjoyed a terrific started to 2018, winning four black-type contests at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Not for the first time, WHOLESTONE (IRE) conquered the fearsome hill and in taking the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle, registered his third Graded success. The 2016 Albert Bartlett winner was bouncing back to form on a return to two and a half miles, though it was his heavy ground debut and despite a blunder at the last, won by three and a quarter lengths.

Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, WHOLESTONE (IRE) was bred by Michael O’Donovan out of the Listed-placed King’s Theatre (IRE) mare Last Theatre (IRE). Bred and trained by Jim Bolger, she is a half-sister to four Stakes horses, including multiple Listed winner and Group 2 performer Ballykett Nancy (IRE), as well as the dam of the great Bob’s Worth (IRE). By Gortnamona Stud sire Craigsteel, he was picked up by Ian Ferguson for a bargain €11,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale as a foal.

The most valuable race on the card, the Grade 3 Betbright Handicap Chase worth £43,000, was won by another Ian Ferguson buy in BALLYHILL. Offered by Moanmore Stables at the November NH Sale as a yearling, Ferguson parted with €25,000 for the horse and subsequently sent him to Colin McKeever. He unfortunately fell on his only start for the pair at Ballingarry, but has since won three times under rules for Nigel Twiston-Davies, S Such and CG Paletta.

Another November NH graduate, ACEY MILAN (IRE), took the closing Listed bumper by three and three quarter lengths for Anthony Honeyball. Second on debut and an impressive winner next time out, he may now be aimed at a Listed contest against older horses at Newbury, before returning for the Festival. His purchaser was Bryan Murphy, the price €11,500 and the vendor Milltown Park Stud, whose Marie O’Driscoll bred ACEY MILAN (IRE). He is one of five winners out of the mare, herself a half-sister to Listed performer Dagwood, and is by Grange Stud sire Milan.

First to strike on the day was the Neil Mulholland-trained TIKKANBAR (IRE), who gained his fourth win in six starts in the Listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Sent off favourite, he made all under Noel Fehily and was never passed by any of his seven rivals, with Ainchea (IRE) nearest at the finish by a length and a quarter. With previous winners of the race including Bobs Worth (IRE) and Champers On Ice (IRE), the future looks bright for TIKKANBAR (IRE), who is owned by the trainer’s father and was bought for just €5,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland August NH Sale. 

Bred by Gerald Travers, he is by Tikkanen of Glebe House Stud and comes from the family of champion sire Jimmy Reppin, Irish Lincolnshire heroine Cockles And Mussels and Kerry National third General Striker.

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