‘GLADIATORIAL’ (6s to 7/2) supplied a very easy winner of the opener at Downpatrick, being trained at Draperstown by Noel Kelly. The winner, with Jody McGarvey aboard, made all and endorsed his prior efforts to win eased down at the line and appears capable of further improvement. ‘Leac An Scail Lady’ ran second throughout and duly finished runner up.
McGarvey said: “He’s not the easiest ride, he likes to bowl along. That was the plan, as there is no point in getting into a fight with him. I was able to dictate it my own way in front. He jumps and travels super and I was able to get a breather into him wherever I wanted and I just let him rock and roll down the hill. He went down and jumped the last well and nothing could get to him.”
‘Favori Logique’ looked the likely winner jumping the last in the handicap hurdle, but was out battled on the run home by the Henry De Bromhead trained, ‘Centurion Steel’ partnered by Mikey O’Connor, which had run second for most of the race. ‘Lighthouse Rose’ improved easily prior the final flight before filling third and can score before too long.
O’Connor said: “The summer ground is probably starting to help him a small bit. He battled away the whole way to the line and I’m very happy with him. The horse in Tramore last time probably just got a run on him.”
The Barry Connell trained ‘Enniskerry’, with Mark Bolger in the saddle, readily landed the long distance maiden hurdle. The winner soon led and kept on gamely to repel numerous challengers including favourite, ‘Western Cowboy’, which finished second. However, one to note in the race is ‘Blowing Dixie’, which raced very keenly and made a bad mistake at the last prior to filling fourth and the Galway Festival could be on the agenda for the owners, who regularly are in the winners enclosure at their home venue.
Connell said: “He’s a fine horse. He had very good winter form in bumpers – he ran into a good horse of Gavin Cromwell’s twice (‘Letsbeclearaboutit’). He was second to him twice. The last day in Thurles, he was clinically abnormal, he wasn’t right. He just had a little heart issue, but it resolved itself. We didn’t think we would have to come here for a maiden hurdle as a seven-year-old. I thought he would have won long before now.”
The handicap chase produced a rousing finish when the Michael McDonagh trained, ‘Fly De Megaudais’ with Cathal Landers aboard, just denied the locally trained ‘Carried’ (20s to 5/1 joint favourite) by a neck. The winner was patiently ridden before hitting the front at the last, while the runner up had raced third only to be outpaced in the closing stages.
Landers said: “I would have probably liked something to bring me a bit farther. I was just travelling so well I kind of went and just had enough up the hill lucky enough to just hold on. It was his first handicap chase and just the way they started with the false start, I ended up down on the rail with no light, but he was brilliant, his jumping carried me everywhere. This hasn’t been my lucky course, as I got an bad injury here, but today I travelled up in the box with the horse and thought he had a great chance, but all went to plan today.”
‘Highstreet Roller’ (8s to 100/30 favourite) looked another set for victory at the final flight, but Keith Donoghue on the Jim Dreaper trained ‘Shopping Around’, had other ideas. Only seventh two from home, the chestnut mare stayed on resolutely to assert on the uphill climb to the line and win with a degree of ease.
The Gavin Cromwell trained ‘Clonguile Way’ was a detached last for most of the Molson Moors Chase, however jockey, Jonathan Moore’s perseverance reaped dividends, as the horse stayed on well in the closing stages to claim the prize and ‘Hell On Earth’ remains a maiden, despite starting favourite.
Moore said: “He can be a bit of a monkey, but in fairness to him there in the latter stages of the race, when I needed him, he stuck his neck out and went up the hill well for me.”
The bumper saw an amazing change in the result in the last strides. ‘Musta Lovea Lovea’ (10s to 3/1) was being marked on race cards as the winner, only for ‘Devil’s Cut’ to stay on to such an affect under Hugh McOwan’s urgings. The Denise Foster trained horse was announced the winner by a neck – the Cullentra team no strangers to success in these races. The Willie Mullins trained favourite, ‘The Bandit’ finished third, but was never the likely winner and is entered for the forthcoming bloodstock sales.
McOwan said: “He just took a while to get going, he was a bit green and he was on and off the bridle. He started hanging in coming down the hill. When I got to the bottom of the hill and he took off on me like a rocket. Denise (Foster) was expecting him to run well and come on for it.”