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Bridesmaid Fakir D’oudairies becomes the bride again at Aintree

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Having finished second in five of his last six races, Joseph O’Brien’s charge went one better at the Grand National Festival

Fakir D’oudairies enjoyed another day in the sun, finally turning a strong performance into victory at the Grand National Festival, writes Bradley West.

The 2019 Drinmore winner is as consistent as they come, and has been in some form all season but has finished runner-up on no less than four separate occasions over the past 13 months.

Trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Mark Walsh, the six-year-old may still have room to grow and seized his chance with two to go to beat Nuts Well and Itchy Feet to justify favouritism in the Marsh Chase.

“He deserved his day in the sun, he’s been running savage races all year without getting his head in front,” Walsh said.

“He went a right good gallop at Cheltenham and he’s done well today.

“They went a good gallop and Joseph and Frank [Berry, McManus’s racing manager] said to me this morning to ride him with a bit of light.

“He jumped brilliant and missed one or two when he was behind horses, which is why I pulled him out.”

At the age of just six, more may be to come from the winner, but exact plans are yet to be decided.

Despite often being the bridesmaid and not the bride, O’Brien was quick to praise Fakir’s character and believes that helped him finally get over the line first again.

“I thought it was a great performance from the horse and Mark gave him a great ride,” O’Brien said.

“He has been a real consistent horse all of his life. He has been second in four Grade Ones since he won his previous one so it is nice to get another on the board at this level with him.

“Although he has finished second a lot there is no questioning his attitude as he wears his heart on his sleeve and gives everything in every race.

“He has been a little bit unlucky as he has been beaten by some top-class horses. I’m just delighted to get another winner on the board.

“I say that two and a half miles is probably the trip that is best for him. We will see how he comes out of this before making any plans. We will just enjoy today and take it from there.”

And the Irish success on day two continued in the fifth race as Willie Mullins made it two from two over the Grand National fences this week with Livelovelaugh in the Topham Handicap Chase.

The 11-year-old had been on a long losing run coming into this contest but arrived with experience over the big fences which may have stood him in good stead.

“Incredible,” winning jockey Mullins said. “Every jockey wants to win one over the fences here, it’s something you want to do before you retire.

“It’s great to get one on the board. It wasn’t so much kicking, I wanted to get away. I didn’t even ask him to forward, he was just enjoying himself.

“I don’t think he stays. He jumps and he travels, this was his Grand National here.”

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Horse Racing

Remarkable year continues with RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year and BBC World Sport Star awards

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Rachael Blackmore will be clearing more space on her mantelpiece after a glittering weekend double capped an unforgettable 2021.

Saturday evening saw the Tipperary trailblazer named RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year and 24 hours later she was picking up the World Sport Star award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year, becoming the first Irish person to win the latter.

The awards round off a remarkable week, which has also seen the 32-year-old become The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year and take home the Irish Racing Hero Award from the Horse Racing Ireland awards, as well as a truly incredible year.

Blackmore’s six Cheltenham winners saw her become the first woman to claim the Festival’s leading rider prize and she followed up by becoming the first female winner of the Aintree Grand National aboard Minella Times.

Blackmore’s achievements saw her beat off competition from Kellie Harrington, Ellen Keane, Cian Lynch, Leona Maguire, Jason Smyth, Vikki Wall and 2020 winner Katie Taylor in the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year, which was won by a jockey for the first time since Tony McCoy’s victory in 2013.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “When you look at the list of those who have won it in the past, to be recognised like this is phenomenal.

“I’ve been blown away by the year of sport we’ve had – it has been an incredible year for women in sport. I’m just a bit overwhelmed.”

On Sunday evening, Blackmore was giving another acceptance speech after collecting the BBC World Sport Star prize.

Tom Brady, Novak Djokovic, Max Verstappen, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Elaine Thompson-Herah were all in the running but Blackmore’s history-making exploits saw her top the public vote.

A delayed flight meant accepting the award via video link at Manchester Airport but Blackmore eventually made her way to the ceremony, meeting Britain’s Olympic diving gold medallist Tom Daley among others.

Reflecting on her achievement, Blackmore said: “The support has been incredible and I got such a kick out of being on that list of nominees. It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s unbelievable.

“I never even dreamt they [this year’s achievements] could happen to be honest. It’s far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. It’s just been an incredible year.

“The reaction has been brilliant, obviously for me personally they are such massive things to achieve but I think when you can bring a bit of joy to other people that makes it even more special.

“The reaction from everyone at home has been incredible and I feel very privileged to have had the year I’ve had.”

Blackmore will now hope her year has room for more memorable moments at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, with her Cheltenham heroes including Honeysuckle, Bob Olinger and Sir Gerhard among those potentially in action between December 26-29.

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Horse Racing

Mullins targeting Hatton’s Grace Hurdle with ‘mouthwatering’ Klassical Dream

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Mullins gave updates on his star-studded stable with more than one eye on upcoming Grade 1s at Fairyhouse

Klassical Dream is ‘in good form’ and ready to take on superstar mare Honeysuckle in a tantalising Hatton’s Grace Hurdle later this month, according to Willie Mullins.

The seven-year-old heads Mullins’ four-pronged attack on the feature race in the BARONERACING.COM Winter Festival at Fairyhouse on November 28, one of three Grade 1s being staged on a huge Sunday of jumps action.

Honeysuckle is looking to make it a hat-trick for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore and Mullins knows he has his work cut out to topple a mare who has won all 12 of her races to date.

But having seen Klassical Dream make an incredible return to action in April, landing the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown after a 487-day break, Mullins is holding out hope for another performance to remember.

“We’re happy that everything is going right at the moment and there hasn’t been any recurrence of his injury,” said Mullins, speaking in a press conference organised by Horse Racing Ireland.

“He’s in good form and worked nicely this morning. It was eye-opening what he did in Punchestown. He’d been working well before that but I found it hard to believe he could put that run in first time out after 18 months out against Grade 1 horses.

“The first four would have been a fantastic comeback so to do what he did was mouthwatering.

“A lot will depend on how well he works over the next few weeks, whether we’re in time to go to Fairyhouse or not – and even if not, we might get him started there.

“This race throws up good horses year after year. It’s a great indicator and it’s where to be.”

Klassical Dream is joined by Saldier, Burning Victory and Stormy Ireland as Mullins’ entries, with the former looking for a third Grade 1 triumph.

The most recent of those came in the 2019 Morgiana Hurdle on his return after a year out through injury, which Mullins feels has been affecting him in the time since.

“When he had that fall in Naas, he broke his jaw and one side of his face collapsed,” he said.

“It has just taken him all that time to get his confidence back jumping again and hopefully he can improve.

“A longer trip, like the two and a half miles of this race, will be right up his street. The Hatton’s Grace will fit nicely into his schedule.”

On his remaining contenders, both Grade 2 winners at Fairyhouse, he added: “Stormy Ireland is a funny little mare who is at her best when she’s nearly unmanageable on the gallop and she’s in that kind of form at the moment.

“One of her best runs ever was her three-year-old maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse [in 2017], she likes the track and she’s coming back into form.

“With Burning Victory, we have to improve her jumping. At the moment, she can jump half the hurdles in a race. Once she gets her jumping act together, I think her racing will take a hike.”

Arctic Fire provided Mullins’ last Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in 2015 and he also has sights set on the day’s other Grade 1s, with six entered for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

No trainer has won the race more than Mullins, who is looking for a ninth Royal Bond triumph and has high hopes for Farout and Arctic Warrior.

“Farout has jumped very well apart from last time for some reason, when he jumped appallingly in Listowel,” he said.

“He still finished second, but was well beaten because of his jumping.

“I’m hoping whatever went wrong that day doesn’t go wrong again – because if he keeps his jumping together, he’s going to be involved coming to the second-last.

“Arctic Warrior could be anything. He certainly shows me a lot at home – and if everything goes right for him, he’s a horse that will run a very big race.”

Bleu Berry and Robinnia, meanwhile, are entered for the Drinmore Novice Chase on what is set to be a top-class day of action.

Elsewhere in Mullins’ star-studded yard, Al Boum Photo is set for a runout before Christmas while Monkfish is out for the season with a tendon injury.

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Horse Racing

John Ryan and Danny Mullins prove a winning combination yet again

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John Ryan landed a double as Grange Walk took the opening beginners’ chase and Fairyhill Run won the first of the two-mile six-furlong handicap chase at Limerick on Saturday.

It was pretty straightforward for both horses with 6/1 chance Grange Walk kicking clear before the final fence under Danny Mullins to win by three and a quarter lengths from the Henry de Bromhead-trained 3/1 joint-favourite Eagle Moon.

Fourteen lengths was the winning margin as Fairyhill Run and Bryan Cooper justified 85/40 favouritism in the later race, they made all the running in the colours of owner Thomas Meagher to win easily from the Paul Nolan-trained Our Friend.

In the Robcour colours, Rachael Blackmore also had an easy time as she won the novice chase on the Henry de Bromhead-trained Gin On Lime. A 1/4 favourite, the five-year-old made all the running for a facile 12-length success over the Joseph O’Brien-trained Star Max.

Blackmore had to work a little harder as she completed a double for de Bromhead and his owners on Tune The Chello in the mares’ beginners’ chase. The 11/10 favourite had to battle and had a length to spare over the Shane Crawley-trained Reine Fee at the line.

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