A local success came at Downpatrick’s Bank Holiday meeting (August 30) in the featured Caughoo Chase, when the Sean McParlan trained ‘Drummullagh Rocky’ (22s to 12/1) gave a bold front running display of jumping to win by a short head in a photo finish from the fast finishing ‘Clody Valley’.
The winner, trained at Silverbridge, Newry, was given a fine ride by Conor Maxwell, while Comber-based and former top Ulster show jumper, Marion Cave – daughter of John McDowell trainer of ‘Caughoo’, winner of the 1947 Aintree Grand National and the Ulster Grand National in 1945 and 1946 and niece of the owner, Hebert McDowell – was on hand to present the impressive trophy.
McParlan said: “He does jump well. He was going well here two races ago and he just clipped the one at the top of the hill. He will spring off good ground. He ran in 80-95s and couldn’t win them and then runs in a better race and wins it. He had a good light weight on him today. It was a brilliant ride and he had just enough at the line, that’s all you need.”
Derrylin trainer, David Christie provided a shock result and another local victory, when ‘Ask The Leader’, fitted with a first time tongue strap, scored at 20/1 in the Coors Hurdle with Darragh O’Keefe in the saddle. The local winner was ridden patiently in fifth, tracking the favourite ‘Alexharwill’, but improved to lead two from home and, despite the favourite driven out in the closing stages, the Fermanagh horse recorded a snug victory.
Christie said: “If you run beyond tomorrow, you can’t run in point-to-points at all. I had decided if she didn’t run well, we would go that route and then we would go back to the track again. The last day, Darragh (O’Keeffe) said she just choked a wee bit, she’s a very tense mare. He said to put a tongue tie on her, just to help her a wee bit. He rode her slightly wide of everything else and she jumped and travelled everywhere.
“When she got to the bottom of the hill, I knew she would come up the hill, as she stays well. In fairness to her, she has grown. She was a very small mare when we got her and she has grown into a nice mare. She has been weak all along and she is only just starting to come to herself now. I have been lucky with horses by the sire ‘Ask’. I focus on point to points, but will probably run more horses on the course.”
The John McConnell trained, ‘Clondaw Hollow’ (8s to 11/2) proved the facile winner of the opening maiden hurdle. The winner, partnered by Brian Hayes, made all and looked vastly superior to rivals in a weak race, with favourite ‘Hurricane Georgie’ a poor second and the victor having cost connections £65,000 after winning his point to point. McConnell (who scored a treble at the previous meeting) quipped: “The best track in the country! He had okay hurdle form last year and I thought he was a big price this morning at 7/1. He jumps very well. He’s not short of pace and he won well. It is nice to get that anyway. He is actually in the Ulster Cesarewitch on Friday (at Down Royal) and it might be worth having a look at. I think he is around 61 on the flat. The owner is New York based and was actually here until Sunday. He’ll be happy.”
The trainer registered a treble on the day, having had two winners in Britain at Cartmel.
The Henry De Bromhead-trained ‘Gateau De Miel’ was another winner to make all the running in the Randox Hurdle and, despite tiring in the closing stages, supplied jockey, Darragh O’Keefe with a double. The favourite ‘Bout Time Bobby’ (7s to 7/2) kept on well near the line, but the winner prevailed by a half-length.
O’Keeffe said: “It’s difficult over that trip to keep going out in front the whole way. He travelled away and jumped well. At least he came on from his good run the last day, so it is nice to get his head in front.”
Trainer, Denise Foster ran a pair in the Beginners Chase for Claiming riders, but it was Jordan Gainford aboard ‘Corran Cross’, who was seen to good advantage, waiting in third as the trainer’s other runner ‘Battle Of Actium’ (finished fourth) and well supported favourite ‘Bentham’ (9s to 2/1) went head to head in front, with the latter finishing runner up having drifted left to the stand side in the closing stages.
The winner, which travelled well three out, won by three parts of a length recording back to back wins having scored at Perth last time.
Foster said: “Both horse and jockey did very well – Jordan (Gainford) was at his best and the horse pulled it out. When he got to the hill, I thought it was nearly over but, no, he stuck his head down, which is what you want them to do.”
The long distance handicap hurdle developed into a duel from two out, between ‘Tango Theatre’ and favourite ‘Favori Logique’, with the latter trained by Ross O’Sullivan and Shane O’Callaghan aboard, keeping on the better to score.
O’Sullivan said: “He is living outside. He was a very worried and a stressed horse when he was younger and he is now happier, I suppose you can do that (live outside) at this time of year. It has totally changed his mind. Every run has got better with confidence, that was his best run today. He did everything really easy.”
‘Quiet Escape’, with Jody Townend aboard, having been settled in a close third for most of the bumper, led on the downhill run and readily held the challenge of favourite, ‘Another Choice’ to provide trainer, Mark Molloy with his first winner since 2015 also at the course.
Molloy said: “She will probably go hurdling. She is from a super family and I actually trained her grandmother.”