While the Premier County failed to match Kilkenny in the hurling stakes its horse-trainers showed that life still exists across the border.
Tipperary was to the fore on Saturday, saddling four of the seven winners at the Gowran Park meeting.
Mouse Morris led the way, completing a double but Billy Harney and P.J. Colville also got in on the act.
Fethard-based Morris got the meeting off to the perfect start by taking the opening two mile and four maiden hurdle courtesy of Allied Victory. For good measure his other runner, The Mystro, finished second.
Allied Victory was the outsider of the pair and since he had failed to trouble the judge in his three outings over hurdles he was easy to back. However, he failed to read the script, taking the lead after just three flights of hurdles, responding well to rider Brian O’Connell to land the spoils by four lengths.
Bred by Bill Delaney, the winner has a stout jumping pedigree being a half-brother to the Irish Grand national winner Hear The Echo. By Old Vic out of a Strong Gale mare, a longer trip would not inconvenience him greatly, with Morris intimating post-race that chasing is his game in the long term.
Shield from the Aidan O’Brien yard proved to be a most disappointing favourite. He had the form to win but not for the first time found little when push came to shove.
The Milan gelding Carry Each Other completed the Morris brace with a smooth success in the three mile and a furlong 86-116 handicap hurdle.
Rider Kevin Sexton elected to make every post a winning one and the tactic worked out well as the eight-year-old kept up the gallop to beat Witness Of Fashion by five and a half lengths.
A trip to the sales is likely to be the next outing for the winner, but on this evidence he is capable of running well in staying chases where the conditions are testing.
Templemore-based veterinary surgeon Billy Harney has handled some decent animals in his long training career including Monanore, who once started favourite for the Aintree Grand National.
In Bonzo King, who beat the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Vicky De L’Oasis in the two mile novice hurdle, he has a horse that is going the right way.
A relatively cheap Land Rover Sales purchase, the Gold Well gelding made an eye-catching debut when finishing third to the Cheltenham Bumper winner Solver Concorde at Leopardstown. He opened his hurdling account at Clonmel with a comfortable victory and this was another along the road in what could be a good career.
Always travelling well under Davy Russell, Bonzo King came to join issue with Vicky De L’Oasis in the straight and, after a prolonged struggle, hit the wire half a length in front.
This top two finished 23 lengths clear of the third-placed finisher, which would suggest that they are above average and can be followed.
Harney is not keen on going to the well too often with his charge, as he sees him as a chaser in the making. If he is not sold he will make the transition next season.
It seems like an eternity ago since Pat Colville, who served his time alongside Dessie Hughes with Dan Kirwan at Lower Grange, rode Willie Wumpkins to victory in what is now the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Colville went on the become a highly-respected rider and now his son P.J., who trains a small string just outside Fethard, is beginning to make his mark.
Proof of this was seen when he joined forces with Davy Russell to land the two mile and a half maiden hurdle with Upstager. A good looking son of Oscar, the six-year-old has shown improved form since going hurdling, and did the business here with the minimum of fuss.
Russell, in no hurry to take on the leaders, was travelling ominously well turning to face the judge. Once he asked his mount to quicken the response as immediate, the combination drawing away from the last flight to win by four and a half lengths from the favourite Moonlight Boy.
Fine Article went into many a notebook as a horse to keep on the right side of when taking the bumper for the Paul Nolan yard. This half-brother to the stable’s Hennessy Gold Cup winner Joncol had a highly respectable first outing when finishing second to Westhorpe at Fairyhouse and as a consequence he was sent off a warm favourite.
Coming from off the pace under Robbie McNamara, Fine Article hit the front inside the two furlong marker and found plenty to take the money by a length and a quarter from Sun Lieutenant.
Considered to be still backward by Nolan, the winner may have another outing before going to grass for the Summer, but unlike some of his siblings he has a preference for good ground.
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