GRAIGNAMANAGH trainer Dusty Sheehy ended a three-year barren spell at Kilbeggan when Dante Anna took Friday evening’s three mile 80-95 handicap hurdle in the hands of amateur Conor Murphy.
A winner of a maiden hurdle over a similar trip at Gowran Park back in December the Anshan mare had not shown much form in between, but put her best foot forward on this occasion to win with something in hand.
Racing in mid division early on Dante Anna improved to lead with a mile to race. She turned the race into something of a procession from that point, beating Whiskey And Red by nine lengths with the Shark Hanlon-trained favourite Knockanarrigan a whopping 41 lengths further adrift in third place.
Three years is a long time to wait for a winner and Sheehy, who has put some very good horses including Trafford Lad through his hands, admitted that it was tough going. Dante Anna is a good tough mare but can be a little stuffy, so he decided to give her a blow out on the morning of the race with the desired result.
Now that he has found his way back to the winners enclosure hopes are high that the victories will begin to flow again for the trainer. Dante Anna might be just the animal to give Sheehy another fillip as she jumps a fence well - a change to the larger obstacles is on the cards.
After his Punchestown exploits, when he carried all before him, Willie Mullins was back on the winning trail when Alelchi Inois ran out a comfortable winner of the four-year-old and upwards maiden hurdle over two mile.
Having his first outing for the stable, the five-year-old was only a reserve but a couple of non-runners allowed him to take his chance. He gratefully accepted the situation in what was a moderate contest.
Off the track since finishing second in his native France a year and a half earlier, Alelchi Inois was a warm order in the betting market. Jockey Ruby Wash sent him to the front at the halfway point and from there he made the rest to beat Dancing Roe with a little in hand by over three lengths.
Those who supported the Eoin Doyle-trained favourite Count Salazar in the three mile and a furlong handicap chase must have been on good terms with themselves jumping the second last fence. The Revoke gelding was galloping all over his rivals at this stage, but the wheels came off after the last when he tired badly and could only finish third behind Prince Of Forwards and Captain Luke.
A 16/1 chance, Prince of Forwards gave veteran Bagenalstown handler Paddy Hughes a welcome change of fortune, something which looked most unlikely a furlong or so out.
Twice a winner for the stable a couple of years ago the Sonus gelding had lost his form completely in recent times. Rider Tim Carroll settled him in mid-division before making some progress in the last mile.
Prince of Forwards looked a most unlikely winner at the final fence, but responded well to the urgings of Carroll to snatch the lead close home and take the money by a neck.
Michael Hourigan once described jockey Adrian Heskin as the next McCoy. The youngster has been starved of opportunities to make the prediction come true, but has made the most of what has come his way.
Heskin was seen to excellent effect when guiding Caoimhe’s Delight to a resounding victory in the two and a half mile mares beginners chase. With her point-to-point, as well as her bumper and maiden hurdle already safely tucked away, the seven-year-old looked a natural tackling fences for the first time right from the drop of the flag.
Never out of the leading group, Caoimhe’s Delight hit the front half a mile from home and was not knocked about. The winner stormed on, taking the money by an extended four lengths from the rank outsider Pipers Glory.
This was a very taking display by Caoimhe’s Delight. It will come as a surprise if she does not go onto make her mark at this level.
The winning continued over the weekend for Jim Bolger, who has made a whirlwind start to the flat season. On Saturday he ventured across the water and came away with the opening classic of the season when Dawn Approach ran out an impressive winner of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Home-bred by the trainer, the son of New Approach went through his juvenile season unbeaten. Consequently he started favourite at Newmarket, in spite of all the attention surrounding the Craven Stakes winner Toronado.
Always travelling smoothly, Dawn Approach picked up well once rider Kevin Manning popped the question approaching the furlong marker. Bolger’s charge didn’t let up, going on to rout the field to the tune of five lengths.
This was as emphatic a display in the 2,000 Guineas as has ever been seen. On the evidence supplied the further they went the better the colt got, something which augurs well when it comes to his chances of getting the Derby mile and a half.
While the trainer was not entirely committing himself to the Epsom Classic it looks the obvious race for his charge, who may well be a new superstar in the making. New Approach was touched off by Henrythenavigator in the 2000 Guineas of 2008 before going on to Epsom glory and although there is a lot of speed on the dam side of Dawn Approach he is such a laid back animal that he should see out the Derby trip.
Either way there are some very exciting days ahead for the Coolcullen yard!