There was a large crowd in St James Park on Friday for the final of the Red Mills Champion Open Unraced Stake.
The prestigious contest has had any number of top quality winners over the years and the latest winner has big steps to follow. The final was a five runner affair after the defection of Derryhogan Flame.
Those in the betting ring were expecting a titanic struggle between Skilful Legend and Shutthe Backdoor, with Material Man coming late to rattle the pair. From traps, Shutthe Backdoor got the edge and led Skilful Legend and Black Alder into the first bend.
The leader was foot perfect between the turns and skipped three lengths clear. Skilful Legend made ground into the third bend and closed within two lengths.
On the run to the line, Skilful Legend kept edging closer while Material Man flew home from off the pace. In a thrilling finish, the trio hit the line together.
The verdict went to John Martin’s Shutthe Backdoor by a head from Skilful Legend with a further head back to Material Man. The Brendan Matthews trained son of Droopys Scolari and Give Some More stopped the clock in 29.08.
Shutthe Backdoor went unbeaten throughout the stake and was a worthy winner of the €5,000 first prize.
In the a2 bitch final, the win went to Cruel Intentions while Awaywitdedixies took the a5/a6 final.
The opener went the way of the favourite Pennys Seabiscuit. The winner moved three lengths clear of Flomur Joey around the second bend. The lead remained at three lengths into the third turn. Pennys Seabiscuit stayed clear to defeat Flomur Joey in a very fine 29.15.
The first final of the night saw Awaywitdedixies start best but then get swallowed into the first bend. Old Road Cody went on and was three lengths ahead of Slaneyside Colm at the second.
The recovering Awaywitdedixies moved in pursuit but remained three lengths adrift. The Paul Hennessy trained Awaywitdedixies finished strongly to get by Old Road Cody and win in 29.55.
Foulkscourt Shaw showed best early doors and led the field to the first bend. Knockroe Lad joined the pace setter between the bends and the pair were level all the way down to the third bend.
Mitzy Neymar was motoring behind and by the last turn was second. It looked as if Knockroe Lad would hold on, but the Karol Ramsbottom trained Mitzy Neymar won in 29.47.
The fourth race was level early but Kells Rebel asserted and led around the opening two bends. Into the third the favourite, Kells Rebel, was still in front but now had Condor Lily and Kilara Flash behind.
On the run home, Kilara Flash proved strongest. Kilara Flash completed a double for trainer Paul Hennessy by three lengths in 29.63.
In the Red Mills Racer Plus a2 bitch 525 final, High St Jesse was sent off as favourite but she didn’t fly the traps. Willmount Jewell started best but Cruel Intentions flew up on her outer into the lead.
Cruel Intentions was four lengths clear into the third as Willmount Jewell and Tipp The Deise gave chase. Cruel Intentions raced all the way to the line to win comprehensively.
High St Jesse ran into second but Cruel Intentions was home by four and a half lengths in 29.21.
Kellistown Swift showed first in the staying contest, but Kilbally Bob got by on the rails at the first bend. Bob roared on. Kilbally Bob kicked on again into the fifth bend and Cosy Flyer could not stay.
Kilbally Bob put in a career best effort as he galloped on to win in 40.89.
Upagear and Ballybough Oz showed best from traps in the penultimate contest. Ballybough Oz pushed on. Behind, Upagear and Kilree tangled and lost their chance.
Raggletaggle Rex ran on into second but the Murt Leahy trained Ballybough Oz was home in 29.34.
Garryglass Messi took a flyer from trap 5 in the last race and was sweet on the bend as he led High St Sparkle turning down the back stretch. Garryglass Messi maintained his lead into the third and then all the way to the line despite the best efforts of High St Jesse.
The trap to line winner completed a double for trainer Karol Ramsbottom in 29.06.