THE rearranged Red Mills Day ended in victory for Dunguib, who made his seasonal debut a winning one when he landed the Red Mills Trail Hurdle in workmanlike fashion.
Only three runners went to post for this race at Gowran Park on Saturday. Punters waded in behind Dunguib, sending him off as an odds-on favourite in this Grade Two contest over two miles. Luska Lad set a steady pace under Davy Russell, with Dunguib in his slipstream.
Racing to the second last flight Luska Lad still held pole position, but when rider Brian O’Connell produced Dunguib the pattern of the race quickly changed. The Presenting gelding assumed control and pulled out enough to land the spoils by three and a half lengths. Cheltenham is the next port of call and a tilt at what looks to be a vintage Champion Hurdle.
Roberto Goldback went to post a heavily-supported favourite in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase over two mile and four but in the end had to be content with second place behind the impressive winner Rubi Light. Chasing Cars made the running until the half-way point, where Rubi Light took over. With Andrew Lynch keeping him up to his work he had ten length to spare at the line.
The well-backed Willie Mullins runner Scotsirish was most disappointing. He was never able to muster a real challenge and finished well adrift of the principals in fourth place. Winning trainer Robbie Hennessy told me that he availed of 200/1 about his charge for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham that morning and on this evidence it looks an inspires bet. The six year old had a great run behind Golden Silver at Fairyhouse but is an out and out mudlark. If he gets his ground at the Cotswolds then he will put it up to the best, but come mid-March Cheltenham usually rides no worse that good to yielding so he could struggle.
Tawaagg got the meeting off the perfect start for the Willie Mullins yard with a smooth success in the opening two mile and two beginners chase which was framed in memory of the late Ronan Lawlor. A three-time winner over hurdles the Kyllachy gelding had an eye-catching chasing debut at Leopardstown and as a consequence was all the rage in the betting market.
Having tracked the leaders until well in the straight Tawaagg took over before the final fence. With jockey Paul Townend looking around for dangers he went on to beat Jaffonnien by eight lengths. Thought to be a much better animal on decent ground, the winner will be on the team for Prestbury Park where he will have a choice of engagements.
Edward O’Grady was on hand to greet Rigidity which made an impressive hurdling debut when landing the four-year-old maiden hurdle in the hands of stable jockey Andrew McNamara. The Indian Ridge gelding cruised into the lead after the penultimate hurdle and was not knocked about to beat the John O’Shea runner Devils Bit by eight lengths.
Cheltenham is not on the radar for Rigidity, according to O’Grady. Instead he will appear next at Limerick and then travel to Aintree, where he should have conditions very much in his favour.
Paul Townend has certainly made the most of Ruby Walsh’s absence through injury to ride a host of big race winners for the Willie Mullins stable. His run included a three-timer at Naas on Sunday that centred around the effortless success of Golden Silver in the featured Grade Two conditions chase.
Possessing a beautifully quiet style, Townend is going to pose a headache for Mullins when Walsh returns because most of the horses run for him. If he is reduced to riding the second string horses it will not be long before he will be poached by one of the top yards across the water.