Local trainers Michelle Gannon and Willie Mullins rewarded their followers by saddling a winner apiece at Kilbeggan on Friday.
With the ground riding on the fast side of good, Johnstown-based Gannon drew first blood when she saddled Ballyspellan Lad to gain an overdue success in the 80-95 handicap hurdle over two miles.
An unlucky loser at Roscommon when falling two out while in a clear lead Ballyspellan Lad made no mistake this time. After tracking the leaders under Paddy Mangan, the Rudimentary gelding led after the penultimate flight and ran on strongly to land the spoils by five lengths from the Davy Condon-ridden Formal Bid.
Different riding tactics seemed to pay off as the eight-year-old was ridden from the front in previous outings; dropping him out might well be the key to him. Named after the local townsland, Ballyspellan Lad is regarded a being a difficult ride but Mangan gets on well with him - on this evidence they can score again.
Pink Hat made a winning debut in the bumper to credit the Mullins family with yet another success. The Presenting mare is trained by Willie, owned by his wife Jackie and was ridden by their son Patrick. Coming from these quarters she was always going to come in for support but had to play second fiddle to the Peter Fahey runner Alton Bay in the betting market.
Alton Bay looked the likely winner when he led at the two furlong marker, but had no answer when Patrick produced Pink Hat in the closing stages to claim the spoils by a couple of lengths. Only a handy mare, the winner is a half-sister to Tasitiocht and comes from the same family as Champion Hurdle winners Morley Street and Granville Again so she is bred to be something special.
Pink Hat cost 54,000 guineas at last year’s Derby Sale so this winning bracket will stand her in good stead when she retires to the breeding paddocks. She should, however, be able to add to her collection over hurdles before that happens.
Sizing Machine from the Henry De Bromhead yard certainly set the tongues wagging when taking the two mile and four beginners chase in the hands of Andrew Lynch.
A Down Royal maiden hurdle winner last time, this was the son of King’s Theatre’s first outing over the bigger obstacles and he could hardly have been more impressive. Jumping like a handicapper, Sizing Machine was sent to the front fully six fences from home. From there he drew steadily clear to win by 14 lengths from Raajih, with Miranour a further 11 lengths back in third place. While bigger tests lie ahead this was a most pleasing debut by the five-year-old. Chasing is clearly his game and he can prove this in the months ahead.
Racing got underway with a comfortable success for the Dessie Hughes runner Flanagans Field in the extended two mile and three maiden hurdle, which was confined to colts and geldings.
After a useful debut in a Roscommon bumper back in June the five-year-old failed to build on that and it was decided to go hurdling with him. This proved to be a wise decision as the son of Araafa, which commanded plenty of respect in the betting market, did the business with the minimum of fuss.
Given a confident ride by Roger Loughran, Flanagans Field sat on the tail of the leaders before skipping clear after three out and going right away to win unchallenged by nine lengths from Kestrel.
Owned by Sean and Gerry Bell, who is the farrier to the Hughes stable, the winner is regarded as a chaser in the making so anything that he achieves over hurdles is going to be a bonus.
Barry Geraghty, who will once again be crossing the Irish Sea regularly in the coming months in his capacity as first jockey to the all-powerful Nicky Henderson yard, kept up his recent good run by guiding Cailin Annamh to a facile victory in the mares novice over two mile and three furlongs.
Heavily supported Cailin Annamh is a highly consistent mare and has a Wexford maiden hurdle victory in July to her credit as well as a bumper success. Never too far out of her ground, she picked off the leaders going down the back straight. In spite of a mistake three out she had enough in hand to draw away in the straight to win by an ever extending 10 lengths from Lilly The Lioness.
Winning handle Jessica Harrington spoke of how the addition of cheekpieces did the job. The trainer will be on the lookout for a similar type contest for her next race.