Kilkenny trainers were to the fore at Clonmel on Thursday with Eoin Griffin, Willie Mullins and Eoin Doyle all hitting the jackpot.
Not to be outdone Shark Hanlon, who has strong Kilkenny connections, was also in the thick of things as he captured the handicap hurdle for amateur riders.
Slieverue-based Eoin Griffin gave a sign of things to come when he landed the opening two mile and four mares maiden hurdle with Oscar Invitation and the in-form Johnny Burke. The seven-year-old was forced to spend nearly a year and a half on the easy list due to leg trouble, but she made a satisfactory reappearance at Fairyhouse when finishing fifth behind Sheamus.
Sporting a first time hood, Oscar Invitation enjoyed plenty of support in the betting market. The confidence was never misplaced as she lay handy before hitting the front on the run to the second last and beating Mystic Lass by two and a half lengths.
This was a nice effort by the winner, in spite of the fact that she ran about a little before the final hurdle. The level of support in the betting market suggests she has plenty of ability. She is in the right hands to add to this success.
Willie Mullins raised a few eyebrows when he saddled the four-year-old Wood Breizh in the three mile 101-121 handicap hurdle. Punters ignored him, sending Bryan Cooper’s Perrie Hill off as favourite, but Wood Breizh proved the doubters wrong by turning in a fine display to land the spoils under Ruby Walsh.
Well beaten in a two mile Listed hurdle at Listowel on his most recent appearance, the son of Stormy Ricer handled the step up in trip well. He came from off the pace, hitting the front after jumping the last flight of hurdles to beat Shantou Flyer by a comfortable length.
The winner has been on the go since he won at Tramore back in April. Connections are thinking of giving him a break as he will come back a stronger individual.
Mooncoin-based Eoin Doyle caused the biggest upset of the meeting when he took the extended two mile and two mares beginners chase courtesy of the 20/1 chance Indian Fairy.
A maiden hurdle winner at the Tramore festival in August, the six-year-old had a satisfactory chasing debut when finishing second at Downpatrick. She must have been giving the right vibes at home as she was taken for small money at fancy prices, but the heavy hitters ignored her and went instead for the Willie Mullins runner Urticaire.
The latter put in a most disappointing effort. She looked like winning comfortably on the downhill run to the straight but began to struggle and was well beaten when making a dreadful blunder at the final fence.
In contrast Indian Fairy was always close to the pace before leading at the top of the hill. Although she tired in the closing stages, she held on to take the money by half a length from Our Katie.
Given plenty of assistance by 7lb claimer Adam O’Neill, the winner looks to be on an upward curve. Her jumping was flawless and it will be interesting to see if Doyle keeps her chasing or reverts back to hurdles.
Shark Hanlon was on hand to greet Diamond Dame after she ran out a comfortable winner of the two mile 80-94 handicap hurdle for amateur riders.
Given a stylish ride by Rachel Blackmore, the King’s Best mare was settled in mid division before making good ground from the third last hurdle. The combination drew steadily clear to win unchallenged by eight lengths from Hard Bought.
A winner on the all-weather in England for Sir Michael Stoute, Diamond Dame was purchased at Brightwells sale by Hanlon for Thomastown owner Ann Cullen. She is related to plenty of black type winners, so she is going to be a valuable broodmare prospect when her racing days are over.
Arthur Moore has been quiet by his own high standards this season, but has a nice horse on his hands in the shape of the J.P. McManus-owned Fever Pitch, who was a comfortable enough winner of the featured conditions chase over two mile and four.
Already a course and distance winner, the Dushyantor gelding was sent to the front right from the drop of the flag by jockey David Casey. Although joined briefly with a circuit to race, he never looked likely to be in any difficulty.
With his jumping foot perfect, at the end of the day this proved crucial as he raced to a three-length victory from Too Scoops.
Moore told me that he has fewer horses under his care now that at anytime in the last 20 years, mainly due to the economic recession that we are well acquainted with.
An outstanding rider before turning his attentions to training, Moore is hopeful that he can hit the high spots again with some of the unexposed horses in the yard.