TRAINER Dessie Hughes, who began his racing with the late Dan Kirwan near Goresbridge, has high hopes for Lyreen Legend which turned over the favourite Folsom Blue to capture the Grade Two Michael Purcell Memorial Hurdle at Thurles on Thursday.
On paper at least this was a cracking contest and it will come as no surprise if a few of the participants go on to better things. Although his hurdling left plenty to be desired the five-year-old had moved into contention before the home turn. Rider Bryan Cooper elected to wait until the final flight before sending him on about his business and from there he pulled out plenty to see off the challenge of Folsom Blue by three and a quarter lengths.
In his post-race remarks Hughes revealed his affection for the horse and predicted that he will be a major force when he goes chasing later in the year. However, there are other fish to fry before that, notably at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals. Since Cheltenham is not on his agenda he will be a fresher animal than most.
Folsom Blue probably found the two mile and four trip just beyond but Bridget’s Pet from the Tony Mullins yard ran what was arguably his best race so far. Partnered by the trainer’s son Danny, he came from off the pace to be bang in contention jumping the final flight and was just outstayed from there. Make no mistake but there are good races to be won with this son of Arakan.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh had their customary winner at the venue when Dare To Doubt landed the two mile and two mares beginners chase in emphatic fashion. A three-time hurdle winner, the King’s Theatre mare had shaped well on her couple of outings in chases over longer trips at the venue earlier in the year. She was the one that punters latched on to and, as a consequence, she was an odds-on favourite.
After chasing the leaders early on Dare To Doubt was galloping all over her rivals once the field straightened up for home. She hit the front between the final couple of fences and with Walsh looking around for danger hit the wire four and a half lengths to the good over Mayo Mystique.
A chase at the big Easter meeting at Fairyhouse is the target but there is an outside possibility that if anything happens to Quevega she could contest the mares hurdle at Cheltenham.
Tom Foley looks to have a pretty useful animal on his hands in the shape of Dantes Firth which landed an exciting mares bumper after a great scrap with Carrigeen Kariega and Kymin’s Way.
Although she made an eye-catching debut in a Gowran Park bumper the daughter of Flemensfirth was only second favourite behind Casablanca Lily, who never looked like giving her supporters a run for their money. In contrast Dantes Firth, which had made much of the earlier running before relinquishing the advantage, battled back to lead a furlong or so out. With Pat Foley pulling out all the stops the duo had three-parts of a length to spare at the finish.
Soft ground specialist
Foley intimated post-race that the mare is a soft ground specialist. She may attempt to defy a penalty in a winners’ race but will change codes and go hurdling come the Autumn.
The performance of the third-placed Kymin’s Way took the fancy of many. Owned, trained and bred by Ronnie O’Neill near Kells, the daughter of the resident sire Stowaway was making her first racecourse appearance. She looked in some trouble heading across the top of the hill, but ran on to such effect that she only a length and a quarter adrift at the line. With normal improvement she should be collecting her bumper pretty soon.
Willie Mullins had a couple of well-fancied candidates at Navan on Saturday but failed to raise a flag. He saddled his Cork bumper winner Perfect Gentleman in the maiden hurdle for five-year-olds and upwards but after looking a probable winner early in the straight he was unable to withstand the late surge of both Carrig Millie and He’s Our Man. He was far from disgraced, as he was only a length off the winner, but maybe a longer trip would be to his advantage.
Peking To Paris, which looked decidedly useful when finishing second on a Fairyhouse bumper, was all the rage for the concluding bumper but he to had to be content with third place behind the runaway winner Lord Of Lords.
A good looking son of Flemensfirth, Lord Of Lords came with a tremendous rattle in the straight and pulled right away from the furlong marker to beat Arlberg Express by 23 lengths. He must be showing plenty at home to justify the confidence in him and being out of a Be My Native mare he should be better with a little obstacle in front of him.