JOHNSTOWN trainer John Nicholson is continuing the great tradition set by his late father Tom. In Great Oak, which landed the two mile and a furlong amateur race at Killarney on Saturday, he has a mare that could be spoken about in the same breath as the likes of Bigaroon, Artifice or Milan, all great servants to the stable many moons ago, writes Ned Tierney.
In what was a decent contest Drive Time from the Willie Mullins yard, which started favourite for the Galway Hurdle but departed the scene early on giving Ruby Walsh such a horrible fall, was at cramped odds and ran a fine race to claim third money.
In spite of the fact that Nicholson has been singing the praises of Great Oak for some time now she was allowed start at 10/1. Given a stylish ride by 7lb claimer Rachael Blackmore the Dushyantor mare was settled just off the pace. She improved smoothly to lead inside the two furlong marker and with Ms Blackmore using just hands and heels defeated Saint Gervais by half a length.
In his post-race remarks Nicholson announced that his charge is going from strength to strength. She will probably contest a conditions chase at Galway next and have a tilt at the Irish Cesarewitch.
After handing in his trainer’s licence after a few seasons Tommy Carmody was encouraged to try again by flat rider Johnny Murtagh following an offer from Andrew Tinkler. This time, on the flat, it worked out a treat.
Plenty of winners
Renting a yard from Murtagh at Pollardstown on the Curragh, Carmody is turning out plenty of winners and looked most lucky not to have won the Ebor handicap at York just over a week ago. He was on the mark again when Seventh Sign ran out an impressive winner of the mile and six 66-84 handicap in the hands of Niall McCullagh.
Easy enough to back the Pivotal colt, which got himself well worked up beforehand, was always in the firing line. He led leaving the back straight and ran on strongly to beat Bahrain Storm by four and a half lengths, a distance that could have been much greater if the rider desired.
The fitting of blinkers seems to have worked the oracle for Seventh Son, as he has also posted victories at Sligo as well as Ballinrobe. It will be interesting to see if he can score again with his new handicap mark.
After a profitable spell over fences the Mouse Morris-trained Baily Green returned to hurdling. He duly made his mark, taking the Grade handicap hurdle over two miles and a furlong.
Domination was a well-supported favourite and, in the end, was the one to put it up to Baily Green. Absolutlyfantastic made the early running before giving way to the Eoin Griffin representative Norther Bay after a few hurdles. The latter still held the call on the approach to the last flight but Baily Green, Domination and Rattan were all closing in on him.
Rider David Casey then drove Baily Green to the front and, after a hectic battle, just lasted home to hold off Domination by a nose with Rattan a length and a half away in third and Norther Bay fourth.
Casey told me that his mount was quick and accurate over his hurdles, with the drying ground a big help. Listowel is now firmly on the agenda.
It was all of 22 years since Aidan O’Brien last visited the course and he made a winning return when Count Of Limonade captured the extended mile nursery.
Partnered by Aidan’s son Joseph, the Duke Of Marmalade colt broke smartly and made virtually all the running. However, he had to be well stoked up in the final furlong to see off the challenge of the Jim Bolger-trained Teoirim by a head.
The big nursery at Listowel now awaits the winner. On this evidence, he will be hard to beat.
Curragh handler Dermot Weld combined to take the opening two races on the card. His Galway victor Tandem justified cramped odds in the mile conditions for three and four-year-olds while Stuccodor was all out to defeat the David Wachman runner Hot Bed by a head in the mile and half a furlong 70-86 three-year-old handicap.