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McNEILLY said: “We thought he would have needed further, but with the ground being so heavy, we thought it might work in our favour. Cormac (Abernethy) rides out with us three days a week and that is his first winner anywhere. We are delighted to give a young fella’ a chance. He’s from Tyrone and he would ride out for several trainers. The ground is horrendous out there, but he was strong at the finish. We didn’t want it to be a sprint finish and that was how his last race sort of panned out.”
The 1/3 favourite ‘Decimation’ duly won the opener, albeit the Henry De Bromhead horse appeared lucky to land the spoils. The winner led before two out, but ‘Arctic Warrior’ was just behind and appeared to be going best, however stood too far off the penultimate flight and fell, presenting the race to ‘Decimation’. ‘Arctic Warrior’ – half-brother to ‘Arctic Fire’, runner up in a Champion Hurdle – then fell again at the last when loose, but remains one for the notebook.
Jockey Rachael Blackmore said: “It was nice to get his head in front today. Obviously, the main challenger went at the second last, but he stuck at it well. It’s plenty tough going out there – the usual spot across from the stands, they’re really getting into it.”
JP McManus, owner of ‘Arctic Warrior’, gained compensation when ‘It’s Only A Number’, trained by Fran Flood with Omagh jockey, Simon Torrens aboard, was the very easy winner of the Coors Chase. ‘Drummullagh Rocky’ attempted to make all before fading late to finish fourth, however, the winner caught the eye, travelling very well four out before leading three from home and going clear.
Flood said: “We’ll talk to Frank (Berry) and see where we might go with him, there’s a race in Leopardstown on March 8 that might suit him. Today, he looked like he might get a big further. It’s good to get a winner.”
Ireland’s leading jumps owner doubled up when retained jockey, Mark Walsh was seen to excellent advantage scoring on the Liz Doyle trained, ‘Envoi Pierji’ (4s to 6/4 favourite), despite some indifferent jumping. The winner switched wide before two out and kept on under strong pressure to deny the front running ‘Wishmoor’ and ‘Kavanaghs Corner’.
Doyle said: “I thought the step up would really help him find a gear, but he made very hard work of it.”
The Robert Tyner trained, ‘Nelly’s Money’ gave a game performance on her handicap debut to claim the mares’ hurdle. Jockey, Philip Enright, who is enjoying a great season, waited patiently and got a dream run up the inside at the elbow into the straight to challenge ‘Silk Worm’, which led at the final flight, only to be out-gunned close to home by the winner.
Enright said: “Her form has been consistent, she rarely runs a bad race. She was entitled to run her race again today. Thankfully, she finished in front today and she deserves it.”
Handler Sean Doyle is prominent in point to points and, with that arena cancelled, introduced ‘Longque’ (40s overnight returned 4/1) in the bumper to record a very convincing success with Jack Hendrick doing the steering to register his first track win.