Madara strikes for Britain at Leopardstown

By Sports Desk February 03, 2024

Madara, one of only three runners from the UK declared at the Dublin Racing Festival, ran out a ready winner of the Ryanair Handicap Chase.

Claimed by Sophie and Christian Leech out of an Auteuil chase in October, his three previous runs for the yard had all been at Cheltenham, winning on the most recent of them.

No stranger to running their horses in France, they snapped up James Reveley to ride, a former champion jockey over there.

British and Irish race fans had a recent reminder of the Yorkshireman’s qualities on Boxing Day when Il Est Francais led his rivals a merry dance at Kempton.

Reveley bided his time on this occasion, making sure not to hit the front too soon on the seven-year-old – but approaching the final fence, he could wait no longer.

Once over that obstacle, he put the race to bed, stretching clear to win by two and three-quarter lengths as the 4-1 joint-favourite.

Sophie Leech said: “He’s a fantastic horse and I’m so happy. My son Ed and my husband Christian do all the race planning and this fitted timing-wise.

“We are used to travelling, as we have more runners in France than we do in England. It looked like a really nice opportunity and Bryan (Drew, owner) and all the lads involved were really keen to come over and have a go.

“We’re a very small yard and the team at home work tirelessly, so thank you to them. We’re delighted.

“We’re staying for the racing tomorrow, so it’ll be a good old night tonight!

“We’ve had runners at Punchestown before and love coming over here.”

When asked if Madara could now head for the Grand Annual, she added: “We were thinking of the Plate for him (at Cheltenham), because we thought he’d like a step up in trip.

“He was beat over the Old course and I think the New course suits him better. I don’t know now because he looked to have plenty of pace there. It’s a nice problem to have.”

Reveley commented: “I’m over the moon, it’s my first winner in Ireland. To be fair, it was a good bit of placing by Sophie and Christian.

“I watched his Cheltenham race over and over and thought yeah, Leopardstown will suit him down to the ground – big fences, stiff track and a bit of soft ground, it was ideal for him.”

Maxxum produced a fine weight-carrying performance to give young jockey Carl Millar by far the biggest success of his fledgling career in the Race And Stay At Leopardstown Handicap Hurdle.

Millar only had eight previous winners to his name but proved great value for his 7lb claim on Gordon Elliott’s top weight.

Maxxum had won at Leopardstown last Christmas and went off 7-4 favourite for this very race 12 months ago, only to disappoint.

Having looked in the grip of the handicapper, Elliott sent him chasing.

He had been back over hurdles for his last two outings but was sent off at 28-1, having been pulled up on the most recent of those.

Millar was positive from the outset, though, and while Gaoth Chuil travelled much better, Maxxum stuck to his task to win by three-quarters of a length.

“Carl is a good lad. He’s well able to ride and just needs to tidy himself up a little bit now, get on the simulator. He’s a good lad and works hard,” said Elliott.

“Maxxum is a bit hot and cold and I thought the ground might have gone a bit soft for him. When you are in these handicaps, you never know.

“We said we’d keep it simple, pop him out handy and see what happens.”

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