There was much discussion post-Cheltenham about the UK handicapping, in what looked like an attempt to favour the UK runners. There have been some notable Irish success in the last few weeks. With Aintree looming this may well be worth keeping in mind.
The Imperial Cup Sandown 12-3-22
Surprise Package ran out an easy winner of the Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at Sandown. The six-year-old delivered a nine-length success from Lively Citizen. Hacker Des Places and Onemorefortheroad completed the placings. Sent off at 20/1, James Bowen's mount travelled well throughout. He was on the bridle approaching the last flight and turned the competitive handicap into something of a procession. County Kildare trainer Peter Fahey admitted: "I think he would like quicker ground, too. He won a good race at Punchestown last year - the Red Mills Final - and he put in a huge performance that day, and he has just kept on improving.
Midlands Grand National 19-3-22
Screaming Colours continued Ireland's domination from the final day of the Cheltenham Festival when taking the Boulton Group Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. William Durkan’s raider, trained in Sandyford in Dublin, had just the one run since finishing fourth in this race 12 months ago and targeting the long-distance handicap chase reaped a handsome dividend this time. Conditional jockey Conor Orr brought his mount into contention in the straight with four fences left and began to bid for honours with El Paso Wood and Truckers Lodge, the winner in 2020. Screaming Colours had every chance two out and held a definite advantage over the final obstacle. He was ridden out to score as a 12-1 shot from the staying-on Young Dev (10-1). Last year’s winner Time To Get Up (11-4F) was third and El Paso Wood, an 80-1 outsider, ran a massive race to finish fourth.
Scottish Champion Hurdle 2-4-22
Anna Bunina went one better than 12 months ago when coming with a powerful late run to win the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr. Second to Milkwood last year, John McConnell's mare was 13lb better off with that rival this time around. Victory did not look likely on jumping the last, however, as Sean Bowen's mount was only third. Onemorefortheroad had just jumped back into the lead by then, taking over from West Cork who had hit the front seemingly going strongly. To West Cork's credit, he began to battle back and was getting on top once more only for Bowen to get a real tune out of Anna Bunina (6/1), who sprouted wings to win going away by a length from West Cork. "She's got Flat speed and she certainly showed it there," said McConnell. "I'm over the moon because she got a really serious injury when she finished second in it last year, she got some birch in a tendon and it was touch and go for a while."It's taken a while for her to get her confidence back. It probably looks like a big plan but it really hasn't been, it's probably more luck. It was a marvellous day for the McConnell yard which has had 13 winners in the UK this season.