Several horses likely to play a prominent part in the coming months were present at the excellent two-day event in Gowran Park.
Chief among the runners at the all-national hunt meeting was the grand old warrior Sizing Europe, who made his seasonal debut in the Grade Two PWC Champion Chase over two mile and four.
He may be rising to 12 years of age but the son of Pistolet Bleu looked as good as ever and readily saw off the challengers Baily Green and Rubi Light to maintain his record of never being outside the first three in his 24 outings over fences.
Barry Geraghty and Rubi Light set a respectable gallop, but were closely attended to by Sizing Europe with Baily Green getting into the argument leaving the back straight. Rider Andrew Lynch sent Sizing Europe about his business after the third last fence and he kept pulling out enough the see off the late surge of Baily Green by a length and a quarter, with Rubi Light just a neck further back in third place.
There is no doubt that on decent ground the winner has few peers over this trip. If conditions remain the same he will head to Down Royal for the JNwine.com Champion Chase and connections will take it from there.
For a horse that has crossed swords with the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Kauto Star, Henry de Bromhead’s stable star has carried the scars of battle with remarkable resilience. On this evidence he can look forward to yet another fruitful campaign.
Another animal expected to pay his way over fences this term is Art Of Logistics, who captured the two mile and two beginners chase in the hands of Bryan Cooper. A decent horse over hurdles, the Exit To Nowhere gelding was making his chasing debut but there was plenty of stable confidence behind him.
Racing just off the pace for much of the journey, Art Of Logistics looked in trouble off the home turn but picked up impressively once Cooper urged him on. He was full value for his length and a quarter victory over the Willie Mullins runner Balnaslow.
Barry Geraghty, who will soon be on the cross-channel shuttle to continue his association with the Nicky Henderson yard, continued his rich vein of form by guiding The Crafty Butcher to a hard-earned victory in the Grade C Handicap Hurdle over three miles.
Given plenty of time to find his feet, The Crafty Butcher responded well to the urgings of Geraghty in the straight before leading close home to take the money by half a length from Aughnacurraveel.
Winning trainer Michael Hourigan has been searching in vain for a replacement for Beef Or Salmon. In spite of the fact that he sees the winner as a nice chaser in the making he is unlikely to fill the space of his former star.
Jessica Harrington took Friday’s opening session by storm when saddling her first four-timer. For good measure her daughter Kate was on board her bumper winner Mr Fiftyone.
Star of the show for Ms Harrington was Cailin Annamh, who made it four wins from six outings over hurdles when landing the two mile and a half mares hurdle after a great scrap with Jennies Jewel.
Going to the second last flight Jennies Jewel had taken a decisive advantage and when Cailin Annamh blundered it looked like the show was over. However, the Definite Article mare rallied well to reel in Jennies Jewel almost in the shadow of the post to record a narrow but deserved victory.
The day began well for the trainer when she joined forces with Robbie Power to take the opening maiden hurdle with her recent flat winner Gambling Girl. The combination struck again with Fresh By Nature in the two and a half mile 88-101 handicap hurdle.
In her younger days Ms Harrington was an international three-day event rider. Her daughter Kate has also followed that route but has kept her hand in the racing game by riding some of her mother’s horses in bumper races. The partnership have a reasonable strike rate and their delight was obvious when Mr Fiftyone took the bumper in workmanlike fashion.
Although bred for the level the Jeremy gelding failed to see the track until now but apparently was showing plenty at home as he was taken at fancy prices on the morning of the race.
Settled in mid division Mr Fiftyone arrived to challenge the long-time leader Shanahan’s Turn heading to the final furlong. After a protracted struggle, Mr Fiftyone shaded the verdict by half a length.