SILVERBRIDGE based father and son duo, Sean and Noel McParlan, supplied a local victory albeit a 50/1 shock winner, with ‘Walker’s Point’, which last won on the track in 2015. The geldings maiden hurdle produced a four-way finish after the local horse had led in the closing stages with favourite, ‘Ya Ya Boy’ coming from a long way back to be denied by a half-length and ‘Felino De Bersy’ just a neck behind in third, with ‘Jack Hackett’ another neck in arrears in fourth.
McParlan Senior said: “It was a surprise! The day he ran in Wexford, he looked like he was going to win by 20 lengths and he just got collared. Coming down the hill (today), the boys were all saying ‘he’ll stop before he hits the line’. He pulled it out there and I’m delighted for the owner. He travels so well and finds nothing, but he kept at it and we were lucky enough today. We were delighted to get that over us today! We’ll talk about that (future plans) later!”
The Ballyclare trained, ‘Will You Walk With Me’ (40s to 10/1) attempted to make all in the first division of the Toals Hurdle before finishing fourth, but it was another local runner, ‘James Boru’ (16s to 13/2), which was produced in the closing stages to prevail. A dual point to point winner for Draperstown handler, Noel Kelly who won the same race last year and partnered by Conor Orr was held up for most of the race before asserting on the run in.
Kelly said: “We changed tactics today. I’ve a new assistant, Danny Fitzsimmons, and he said to drop him in and let him pass horses and it worked. The last few times he got there too early. I always thought there was more to come after he won his points. He just has a wee bit of attitude.”
Trainer, Joseph O’Brien sent out ‘Etincelle Lioterie’ to land the opener on the resumption of racing at Downpatrick. The winner, under an enterprising ride from JJ Slevin, made all benefitting from his slick jumping to justify favouritism.
Slevin said: “It was a nice bit of placing by Joseph. I was very happy with her today – we put cheek pieces on and were always wanting to make plenty of use of her in the race. She was a bit slow over the hurdles last time (Killarney) – we thought they would help. She got into a nice rhythm and handled the track well.”
‘Insane Bolt’ and favourite, ‘Kilmurray’ (7/2-2/1) dominated the finish of the handicap hurdle, sponsored by Crumlin-based Randox, sponsor of the Aintree Grand National. The Gordon Elliott trained first named saw Davy Russell to good advantage – the pair jumping the final flight together and after a hard fought battle and steward’s enquiry, ‘Insane Bolt’ was confirmed the winner. The locally trained ‘So Near So Farhh’ ran on strongly from a long way back to finish a close third.
Elliott and former champion jockey, Russell quickly doubled up in the long distance hurdle when first time blinkers saw ‘Soldier’s Hill’ prove a very easy winner and owned by the stable’s sponsor – the Foran family. The winner ran a close fifth for most prior to leading before the final flight and going clear.
Russell said: “He was a course winner here, which is a big plus. He had plenty of experience and put it to good use. Round here you need to be on the bridle and the blinkers definitely helped.”
The Elliott and Russell partnership completed a hat trick on the day, when British import ‘Give Him Time’ opened his account over hurdles in the second division of the Toals Hurdle. The winner travelled ominously well to lead at the last, where favourite ‘Miraculum’ made a mistake and the locally trained ‘I’m On A Snap’, which had attempted to make all, faded to finish third. Assistant trainer, Ian ‘Busty’ Amond, said: “Gordon owns him, so he will be for sale. He’ll make a nice dual purpose horse during the summer for someone.”
Russell added: “Gordon filled me with confidence and told me he had turned a corner at home and was in great nick.”
Elliott, leading trainer at the venue, consolidated his status when ‘Curlew Hill’, with champion amateur Jamie Codd aboard, made a winning debut in the bumper to provide a four-timer for the trainer and provide the trainer’s sponsor, the Forans, with a double. Assistant trainer, Ian Amond said: “Another great day with four winners. He is probably like a lot of ours – he has come on again from his first run. I don’t know whether he will go for a winners’ bumper; he might go over hurdles with him. It’s a nice double for the yard sponsors (Noel and Valerie Moran, who also own ‘Soldiers Hill’). It’s a great day for everyone.”