WINDGAP trainer Kieran Purcell looks to have a real smart horse on his hands in the shape of Bridgets Pet which destroyed a good field to land the winners bumper at a rain-sodden Galway on Sunday.
Having opened his account at Downpatrick after promising efforts at Bellewstown and Kilbeggan the four-year-old did not go unsupported in Galway, despite the presence of the highly-regarded Sands Cove.
Given a patient ride by 7lb claimer James Burns, Bridgets Pet gradually crept into contention before taking on the climb to the straight and running right away to finish 11 lengths clear of Valleymount.
After such a superb display in atrocious ground, Purcell revealed he will give the horse a short break and then make plans. He would not rule out having a crack at the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. Should that materialise Windgap will be a deserted village come the second week in March.
If Kieran Purcell has a valuable horse on his hands, so too has Philip Fenton. He was on hand to greet Last Instalment after the Anshan gelding made a winning debut over fences by taking the two mile and six beginners chase in the hands of Brian O’Connell.
A decent horse over hurdles, Last Instalment was always going to be a chaser according to Fenton. After this display few would disagree with him. Ruby Walsh attempted to make all the running aboard Alpha Ridge, however O’Connell always had him in his sights. When the rider asked him to quicken off the home turn Last Instalment quickly settled the issue before going on to record a comfortable three and three quarter length success.
A bullish Fenton reported that his charge is just about as natural a jumper as you could wish to see. All going well the Florida Pearl Chase at Punchestown will be the target. Future plans will be made after that but Cheltenham must be very much in the mind of connections.
Although he picked the wrong one in the beginners chase Davy Russell recorded a double which keeps him well in line to challenge for the jockeys’ title. Leave Him Alone set the ball rolling with a workmanlike success in the opening five-year-old maiden hurdle over two miles.
Starting favourite, the Oscar gelding was given time to find his feet before making ground going into the dip. Russell kicked him into the lead jumping the final flight and he ran on strongly to hit the wire three lengths to the good over Tynaghs Trooper.
While it was hardly the greatest maiden hurdle ever run the winner had some decent form, with a point-to-point success and a bumper to his credit. According to his handler, Kevin O’Sullivan, he will now contest a novice event.
Tharawaat completed the Russell brace when he defied top weight to run out a comfortable winner of the two mile and six 105-133 handicap chase.
Always in the firing line the son of Alhaarth led at the penultimate fence and powered away up the hill to beat Indifference Curve by seven lengths. Now in his second season as a chaser, Tharawaat looks a stronger horse. He will be stepped up in class as he will be hit hard in handicap company.
Jimmy Mangan, who will always be remembered for his exploits with Monty’s Pass, teamed up with his son Pat to capture the two mile mares maiden hurdle with Noras Fancy.
Clearly relishing the testing conditions Noras Fancy pulled her way to the front from the third last hurdle and drew right away to finish 22 lengths clear of Great Oak. Barry Geraghty’s mount Saddleoncemore was another three-parts of a length back in third place.
Mangan told me that the winner had shown glimpses of form in the past but handled the conditions better than anything else. He will wait and see how the handicapper views the result before making any long term plans. Mangan was full of praise for young Pat, whom he described as a fine horseman who is getting a good grounding from his present employer Edward O’Grady.