LOCAL trainers Willie Mullins and Shark Hanlon were in form at a well attended Gowran Park on Saturday. Mullins completed a double, while Hanlon landed the two mile handicap hurdle courtesy of The Buck.
Mullins and rider Paul Townend were fast out of the blocks when they combined to take the opening maiden hurdle with Bagber. A recruit from the flat across the water the five-year-old, making his hurdling debut, raced in mid division until making a forward move on the approach to the straight. Townend delivered his challenges between horses going to the final flight and from there pulled clear to win by two lengths from the favourite Princeton Plains.
While the form of the race is difficult to assess there is no doubt that the winner did the job nicely. According to Mullins, he will improve on better ground. He will now be aimed at a novice event after which we will have a better idea of his capabilities.
Mullins and Townend doubled up later in the afternoon when Uncle Junior did the business in the two mile and four beginners chase. There was drama at the very first fence when the heavily-backed favourite El Fontan unseated rider Paddy Flood. Townend was content to bide his time aboard Uncle Junior before making his move three out. The Saddlers Hall gelding then responded well to the urgings of the rider and showed plenty of resolve to hold off the persistent challenge of the Shark Hanlon runner Baizically by half a length.
Hanlon got his name on the scoresheet when Viking Splash easily took the Hunters Chase under Brian Hayes. An unlucky loser at Leopardstown on his most recent appearance, the Stowaway gelding made no mistake this time as he was at the head of affairs for most of the three mile journey. There were several potential challengers before the straight, but one by one they dropped away. Hayes had only a steering job from the second last to hit the wire ten lengths to the good over Salsify.
This was a most impressive display by what is clearly an above average hunter chaser. Owing to his mishap at Leopardstown he failed to qualify for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, but he has the festival meetings at Fairyhouse and Punchestown to look forward too. It’s hard to believe that this was Hanlon’s first winner over fences in this country, but he did saddle a chase winner in England a few years back.
John Murphy scored a success when The Buck ran out a comfortable winner of the 95-111 handicap hurdle over two miles. Easy to back, the son of Quws was always close to the pace before taking over early in the straight and pulling clear at the last flight to win by eight lengths from Lucky Spring.
This was as fine a piece of riding as one could wish to see from 7lb claimer David Splaine. He kicked on at precisely the right time and soon had everything off the bridle in a matter of strides. The winner, which had run well behind Lascalahall at the venue last month, will now be aimed at a similar type contest according to Murphy.
Tom Mullins looked decidedly unlucky not to have taken the featured Grade B Handicap Chase over a two mile trip when his charge Dr Whizz crashed at the last fence while still on the bridle. Victory in the end went to The Sneezer under a stylish ride from Tom Doyle for the Tom Nagle yard.
Former two mile champion chaser Newmill set off in front as usual, but was tiring by the time the straight was reached. At this point The Sneezer, which had raced in the slipstream of the leader, was pushed to the front by Doyle. He kept pulling out enough from there to the line to take the E24,500 first prize by two and a half lengths from Lucky Spring.
Rathlin from the Philip Rothwell stable looked a decent sort when turning over the odds on Willie Mullins runner Sicilian Secret in the older horses maiden hurdle.
An expensive failure behind Definite Class at Clonmel a month earlier the son of Kayf Tara was never worse than second. He led going down the back and although Sicilian Secret tried to make a race of it in the straight he was always fighting a losing battle; Rathlin simply found another gear from the last flight of hurdles to win very much as he liked by four lengths.
Rothwell revealed post race that his charge scoped badly after his Clonmel outing but all his horses were under a cloud at that time. Like all the Michael O’Leary owned animals this a fine big good looking horse that will go on to better things once he has a fence in front of him.
The point to point bumper turned out to be a two horse race as Thynetocatcher overturned the favourite Kandinski with the rest out of sight. Trained and bred by Roger McGrath near Cappoquin, the daughter of Catcher In The Rye led a couple of furlongs out and ran on strongly to take the money by two lengths.
McGrath intimated that this is a decent mare with no stamina worries. A fine jumper, she will have a fine future when she goes hurdling and eventually chasing.