Coney Island put himself in contention for some of the leading novice chases in the 2016/17 season following his victory in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse earlier this month.
The five-year-old, who was tipped up by Andy Holding at Oddschecker at 20/1 before the Grade One contest, was only making his second appearance over fences. He put in a respectable display in his chase debut where he finished second at Punchestown last month. It was clear at Fairyhouse that he had learnt a lot from his opening assignment this season as he was much fitter and jumped very well to score by just over two lengths.
Coney Island had a number of highly regarded novice chasers behind him at the Northern Irish track. Diamond King went off as the 9/4 favorite for trainer Gordon Elliott on the back of his success at Galway in a beginners chase, Anibale Fly had already opened his account over fences at Navan and Alpha Des Obeaux was a winner of a novice chase at Cork.
The Irish-trained horse was held up in the rear of the field by jockey Mark Walsh who settled his mount early into the contest. The pair made slow progress in the first lap of the course and were third at the halfway point. The five-year-old hit the front just before the last fence which he easily cleared before being pushed out in the run into the line.
Edward Harty’s horse put himself in Grade One contention last season when he scored in a Grade B novice handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse. He outstayed his rivals that day over 3m as he finished the contest strongly under the hands of Barry Geraghty to prevail by just short of three lengths.
Coney Island finished his 2015/16 campaign at the Punchestown Festival where he ran a career best to come home second in the Grade One Novice Hurdle. He was denied first place by Belshill who was only half a length ahead of him at the prestigious Irish meeting.
Connections opted to campaign their horse over fences this season rather than remain in the hurdling division. His next assignment is set to be a Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown over the festive period where he could meet Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle winner Yorkhill who made a winning debut over fences last week at Fairyhouse.
Yorkhill won four of his five races last season over hurdles. His only defeat came in theChampion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown at the end of a long and hard campaign. He came up against eight other runners in his opening run over fences where he was as short as 1/8 in the betting but justified those odds as he won by 14 lengths in an error-free round of jumping.
If things go well at Leopardstown, connections of Coney Island will likely have to plan the route for their horse for the 2017 Cheltenham Festival where he is in the betting for JLT Novices’ Chase at 10/1 at this early stage of the season.