LITTLE more than a fortnight ago Happy Anniversary was on the verge of being put on the scrapheap.
Trainer Dick Donohoe was almost forced to make the tough decision as his charge hadn’t won since her juvenile days across the water. That all changed when she ran a blinder to finish second at Gowran Park, showing that the handicapper had her a competitive mark. She exploited this to the full when reeling off her hat-trick at Killarney on Monday, claiming the extended mile handicap in the hands of Joseph O’Brien.
A warm order in the betting market, the daughter of Intikhab was always in the firing line. Happy Anniversary took a definite advantage at the furlong marker and ran all the way to the line where she had a length and three-parts to spare over Macnas.
In his post-race remarks Donohoe revealed that his charge is in the form of her life. Although Leopardstown on Thursday evening proved a bridge too far she was not disgraced in a red hot handicap. She has another assignment this week when she appears at the Goresbridge sales and will command plenty of interest.
Another which has been busy in the recent past is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Beach Of Falesa. The Dylan Thomas filly followed up her Leopardstown victory with a comfortable success in the mile and three handicap.
Owned by the trainer’s wife Anne Marie, Beach of Falesa was partnered by their son Joseph. She was never out of the leading trio before asserting a furlong and a half out and was full value for her length and a quarter success over the Tommy Stack runner Equity Swap.
The winner was pulled out again on Wednesday and like Happy Anniversary four races in quick succession took a lot out of her when she failed to get into the money in the valuable mile and three fillies handicap which was won by the Andy Oliver representative Jazz Girl.
Connections are now thinking in terms of listed class for Beach Of Falesa which would make a huge difference to her CV when she retires to the breeding paddocks.
Tony Mullins landed a sizeable gamble at Thursday concluding session when Union Dues took the bumper in the style of a horse that we will hear a lot more about.
Backed from 6/1 and 8/1 into 3/1 favourite, the French-bred four-year-old was given a patient ride by the trainer’s nephew Patrick. He made smooth headway leaving the back straight to lead at the two furlong marker and in spite of showing signs of greenness beat the outsider Theos Well by four and a half lengths.
This was a nice display by Union Dues on his racecourse debut. Bigger tests lie ahead but his progress will be monitored with interest. In his post-race remarks Mullins revealed that this was Patrick’s first winner for him which means that all his nephews have now ridden winners for him.
Windgap handler Garrett Power is eyeing a handicap hurdle on the Wednesday of the big Galway meeting for Excellent As Usual, which was a game winner of the three mile 88-102 handicap hurdle at a well-attended Kilbeggan meeting on Friday evening.
A winner over hurdles at Downpatrick almost two years ago the nine-year-old’s form has been a shade in and out since. He has not raced since Bellewstown last August, so it must rank as a fine training performance by Power.
Rider Paul Townend always had the Cape Cross gelding in the firing line, sending him to the front going down the back straight. From there the combination kept up the pressure to land the spoils by three and a half lengths from Parthian Empire.
Power admitted post-race that he has the Galway race in the back of his mind since his charge fell when travelling well there last year. His horses are running well at the present time so we can expect a bold showing from Silent As Usual.
The feature race on the card was the Midlands Grand National over two mile and six. On paper at least it looked a wide open contest and it was won in good style by the Philip Fenton trained Caim Hill.
A three-time bumper winner, the Deploy gelding failed to live up to that promise over hurdles and fences. A couple of successful outings on the flat helped to sweeten him up and his most recent outing when second over hurdles showed that he was beginning to regain his form.
Andrew McNamara elected to make the running aboard Liberty Council, but a mistake at the second last cost him vital momentum and he dropped away.
In contrast Caim Hill was always prominent. He took on the leaders on the long run-in and drew away in the final furlong to win cleverly by six and a half lengths from Osana.
Galway is also on the agenda for the winner. He will contest the big amateur handicap on the opening evening and the Galway Blazers chase later in the week.
Ruby Walsh’s mount Victrix Gale, which got into the race as a reserve, was a heavily-supported favourite. He was near enough turning for home but failed to quicken from there and had to be content with fourth place ten lengths off the winner.