Punters hoping to build up a little war chest heading into the Christmas racing programme endured a torrid time at Gowran Park on Saturday.
It was a day to forget for race followers - and one to savour for the bookies - as all seven favourites were turned over at the Kilkenny venue.
Emily Gray proved to be the biggest offender as she ran out a 12/1 winner of the two mile and four handicap hurdle for mares.
After a number of disappointing efforts the daughter of Flemensfirth finally opened her account at Limerick last month. However, punters felt that line of form was insufficient and she was largely ignored in the betting market hence her starting price.
Emily Gray paid no heed to the script, coming from off the pace to be in contention on the inside turning to face the judge. At this point it looked as though she might suffer traffic problems but jockey Martin Ferris was alive to that danger and moved off the rail to after the second last flight before sending her clear to win decisively by three lengths from World Citizen.
If there was an element of luck attached to her Limerick success there was certainly none here. Ferris did well to keep her straight as she was inclined to lug in towards the rails.
Not surprisingly Willie Mullins has a huge following at the course but for once he was out of luck. His runner Artic Fire was an odds-on favourite in the two mile novice hurdle but was very free early and Paul Townend had a job on his hands to get his charge as much cover as possible.
Well in contention at the second last, Fire clipped heels and came a cropper. Victory went to the Noel Meade stable courtesy of Ange Balafre, who was in the very capable hands of Paul Carberry.
A Roscommon bumper winner, the French import opened his hurdling account in impressive fashion at Wexford but this looked a much stiffer assignment. He travelled well from off the pace but Carberry gradually nudged him into contention and sent him to the front after jumping the final flight, from where he battled well to beat the Dessie Hughes runner Tiger Trek by half a length.
Winning handler Noel Meade told me that the winner was bought cheaply in France but has shown plenty of potential right from the time he arrived in his yard. He has a preference for decent ground and Meade will keep him on the go for the time being. When conditions change he will be put away for a Spring campaign.
Dogora was expected to do the business for Mullins when sent off a heavily-backed favourite in the two mile and four beginners chase. After arriving with what looked like a winning effort he tipped up at the second last, leaving Hunting Party to go and claim the spoils by a length and a half from Formidableopponent.
A decent enough horse over hurdles, Hunting Party had shown promise at both Thurles and Roscommon when switched to chasing.
Hughes reported himself as being pleased with the display, but he is a realistic individual and candidly admitted that he is unsure if his charge is good enough to make his mark in staying novice chases. He is willing to put that to the test at Leopardstown over the Yuletide period.
We had a sign of things to come when the Gordon Elliott-trained favourite Moss Street began to struggle heading to the penultimate flight in the opening juvenile hurdle and dropped away tamely to finish well adrift of the principals.
Victory went to the Jessica Harrington representative Sin Mideo, who simply toyed with his rivals from well before the straight. Having failed to trouble the judge on the level the Intikhab gelding had posted one or two nice efforts since changing codes but was still easy to back.
Jockey Robbie Power let him bowl along after jumping the first hurdle. He gradually extended his advantage to run out a winner by 10 lengths from Frozen North.
Ms Harrington revealed that first time cheekpieces helped him to concentrate as he ran around a lot at Thurles. With the nice ground a huge plus she will now throw him in at the deep end at in a graded hurdle Fairyhouse and take it from there.
Oscars Wells went to post an odds-on chance to complete a double for the Harrington yard in the two and a half mile conditions chase. Although he ran a solid race by making a good deal of the running he had no answer to the final flourish of Buckers Bridge and went under by three lengths.
Trained by Henry De Bromhead, Buckers Bridge has been difficult to keep right and must have time between his races. On his day he is very respectable, and connections are now toying with the idea of returning to the venue in January for a tilt at the Thyestes Chase.
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