Commander of Fleet wins the Coral Cup in the bobsleigh

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Commander Of Fleet rose to the line in a thrilling, stormy finish to the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle under a well-judged run from 5-pound claimant Shane Fitzgerald.

The Gordon Elliott-trained winner, sent off at 50-1, was one of the few guaranteed to enjoy the proving ground and the big field, having won a 23-runner handicap at Navan in early December.

Ashdale Bob, trained by Jessica Harrington, put reasonable fractions ahead for the conditions and still went well ahead turning for home, jumping the last three lengths ahead of their 22 rivals.

However, the stamina-sapping floor proved his undoing. Jack Foley’s mount fatigued soon after, as Fastorslow and the fleet commander went after the seven-year-old, who quickly passed out, eventually finishing third, five and a half lengths away behind the first two in the two mile five- long contest.

Darragh O’Keefe’s mount seemed to have gotten the better of the scrap to the line and in a titanic battle he briefly took the lead in front, only for the fleet commander to lower his head when it mattered to score by a short head.

Camprond who was still keeping pace, couldn’t find much from the penultimate and finished fourth.

The win was Elliott’s first at the Festival after he missed last year’s meeting due to the suspension he received when an image emerged on social media of him sitting on a galloping dead horse.

Elliott said: “It’s great to coach any winner here, especially for Gigginstown and it’s great for everyone on the court.

“Maybe it wasn’t what we expected, but that’s the game we’re in, they generally work well. I often come to Thursday without a winner so we didn’t panic.

“I would say the pitch was the difference for this boy, and he was practical all the way. A lot of my others just couldn’t handle the floor.

“The winner is obviously a good horse in his day. I don’t know much about the jockey, but he had a few winners for us and seems like a good guy.

“Every winner I coach is important, whether it’s here, Tramore, Downpatrick, I’m in this game just to coach winners.”

Michael O’Leary, under whose banner the winner races the Gigginstown House Stud, said: “It was wonderful and allows Gordon and the Cullentra team to sit on the board.

“It was a wonderful performance under that weight on a pitch that has become very soft now.

“It was a great run from Shane. I thought he had it in the right position the whole way through and he fought up the hill.

“I think it’s a testament not just to Gordon but to the whole Cullentra team. They had a tough year last year but they’re back here with a lot of great horses. The team works incredibly hard and it justifies the hard work they did last year.

Elliott, who scored an afternoon one-two with Delta Work beating stablemate Tiger Roll in a thrilling finish to the cross-country race, was denied a hat-trick when Global Citizen caused a shock of 28-1 in the two-mile Johnny Henderson Grand Annual. Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

Elliott-trained Andy Dufresne (100-30 favorite), named after the main protagonist of the hit film Shawshank Redemption, finally got out of jail and issued a challenge as the penultimate approached, but at at that time, the bird had flown.

The 10-year-old Global Citizen, making his first run over fences since December 2020, was still up to snuff, though he looked set for minor honors when Publisher Du Gite pulled out four .

Still, Kielan Woods’ mount quickly recovered and after jumping upside down at penultimate, cleared easily.

Although they found themselves alone in front when Publisher Du Gite was tired, the Global Citizen formed by Ben Pauling never seemed to be stuck by Andy Dufresne, and continued to score from three lengths, with Frero Banbou, almost trailing as you approach the top of the hill. , remaining solidly three more lengths further in third position.

Pauling, who is moving into a new yard the week after Aintree, said: “He had needed time to come to his senses and dropped to a good grade after completely losing his way. But I always trusted him.

“He fueled up and came home on a track that suited him.

“It was a great race from Kielan who had already won the race.”

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