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Brian is not Dun just yet

Trainer Philip Fenton insists Brian O'Connell will keep the ride on Dunguib at next month's Punchestown Festival.

The young jockey, who rode a double at Down Royal on St Patrick’s Day, came in for some criticism after Dunguib finished third as the odds-on favourite in last week's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Fenton is pleased with how his stable star has come out of the race and is not ruling out a tilt at the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

“Dunguib took his race extremely well and the idea now is to head to Punchestown,” said Fenton. “He will be given an entry in both the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle and the Rabobank Champion Hurdle.

“There is every chance that he will stay in novice company, but we will keep our cards close to our chest and take a close look at both races nearer the time before making any decision.

“We just didn't have the luck on the day at Cheltenham but we have to put up with it. Fair dues to the winner, but we have to look forward to getting Dunguib back on track at Punchestown.

“Brian (O'Connell) will be back on the horse and he will make amends for what happened at Cheltenham.”

Philip Hobbs is favouring Punchestown over Aintree for Dunguib's conqueror, Menorah.

The five-year-old confirmed all his earlier promise by holding off Jonjo O'Neill's Get Me Out Of Here by a rapidly-diminishing head in the festival opener. Despite all the pre-race talk concentrating on Dunguib, Richard Johnson's mount came out best.

“He couldn't have had a better run throughout and we were just very lucky the post wasn't another 50 yards further away as I think Jonjo's horse might have beaten us,” said Hobbs.

“I'm not sure where he'll go next, he's in good nick and Aintree and Punchestown are the options, you'd hardly think he'll do both. I haven't talked to Richard but I think the stiffer track at Punchestown might suit him better.

“He's only five so I think we'll go along the Champion Hurdle route (next season) but the only problem is a lot of the trial races have small fields which could be tricky for him.”

Johnson was thrilled with the win but thinks the criticism levelled at O'Connell was very harsh.

“Menorah travels really well so I was able to have him down the inner and with a true-run race like that he's not too keen,” the jockey stated.

“To be fair to Dunguib and the lad that rode him, I didn't think he did anything wrong on him at all, he was much keener last year but he got him settled.

“If he rode him again he might do something different but afterwards I thought he wasn't too keen, he didn't jump badly, which is what they were worried about.

“So hopefully Menorah beat him fair and square so it's unfair of the people looking on to be harsh on the jockey.”

Meanwhile, trainer Alan King’s Ravethebrave (15-8) won the Betdaq The Betting Exchange Novices' Hurdle at Kempton yesterday.

King said: “He's a seriously good work horse.”

Belfast Telegraph

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