‘WESTERN Victory’ recorded a facile victory in the opening mares hurdle at day one of the Down Royal Festival on Friday, June 18, for trainer, Declan Queally and jockey, Shane Fitzgerald. The winner joined the leader three out and led at the penultimate flight to score, with ‘Make My Heart Fly’ running on to claim second.
Queally said: “She was thrown in on ratings. She’ll get an entry in the Galway Plate Chase, she has a bit of class, so we’ll see.”
The maiden hurdle appeared between favourite, ‘Irish Poseidon’ (fourth) and ‘Digby’ (third) at the second last, but ‘Mars Harper’ challenging wide scored for trainer, Denise Foster and Luke Dempsey, with ‘Cullaghs Star’ flying home to snatch second.
Dempsey said: “He did it nicely, he had a good look when he got to the front, but he’s won well. He got a nice run through and he’s done it nicely.”
The Cullentra stable trainer doubled up on the day, when ‘Aliym’ (13/2 to 18/5) under a patient ride from Jordan Gainford, won the second division of the opportunity riders hurdle, beating the locally trained pair – favourite, ‘Wake The Giant’ and ‘Wa Wa’.
Gainford said: “He loved it. They went a nice steady gallop and I was able to dictate and get a breather into him when I wanted to. The blinkers and ground definitely helped.”
The long distance maiden hurdle resulted in a three-way photo being needed for the result. The Colm Murphy trained ‘Aldo The Apache’ (66/1) prevailed, having finished best, denying ‘Perryville’ and ‘One For Joe’, while the major gamble on ‘Shake Him Up’ (100/1 to 9/4) saw the Emmett Mullins runner fill fifth.
Murphy said: “He has been very unlucky – he was going to be fourth here when a horse took him out at the last. He’s slow, but he stays going. Paul (Cawley) was very good on him. The further he goes, the better he’ll be, so I’m delighted with that.”
Supporters of the Mullins stable gained quick compensation on their gamble going astray earlier, when ‘Blackstair Rocco’ bolted up in the first division of the Opportunity Riders Hurdle. The locally trained ‘Blue Markie’ attempted to make all, but the winner (8s to 10/11 favourite) travelled ominously well just behind the leaders prior to leading at the penultimate flight and, having jumped the last big and bold, sprinted clear with Mike O’Connor in the saddle. Mullins and O’Connor completed doubles when ‘The Gossiper’ (3s to 7/4) won the concluding bumper.
‘Fairyhill Run’ was the very game loser in the photo finish to the featured hurdle, when denied by a nose by ‘Visionarian’ after attempting to make all, only to be caught on the line. The Peter Fahy trained winner (5s to 100/30) waited in mid-division until improving, when pulled wide after three from home by Tommy Brett, while the locally trained ‘Mon Storm’ (25/1) ran on from a long way back to fill third.
Fahey said: “Stepping him up in trip I suppose was a big help for him there today. I’m delighted.”
The Nigel Slevin trained newcomer, ‘Fizzle Rock’ (25s to 14/1), partnered by Hugh McOwen, claimed the fillies bumper with ‘Little Flour’, which attempted to make all runner up and ‘Frontline Worker’ third, which threw away his chance, veering right across the track to the stands rail, while favourite ‘Whispering Pines’ was pulled up at an early stage.
500 spectators watched the action, with the Maze the first course in Ireland to be open to racing fans for 16 months. The return of spectators was allowed after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, while a further 500 ‘industry’ personnel were in a separate zone on the course.