Next Bend, ridden by Jonathan Moore, jumps the last to win the Kilberry Restaurant Handicap Hurdle at Navan on Saturday. Photo: Caroline Norris
Sunday was a sweet day for Willie Mullins as he completed a clean sweep of the three Grade Two races at Fairyhouse.
Ruby Walsh partnered two of the trainer’s winners, with Paul Townend leading the other home.
Walsh made much of the running on the heavily supported 15/8 chance Ballycasey to win the Normans Grove Chase.
The 10-year-old could go to the Punchestown festival or be kept for TheTote.com Galway Plate, where he finished third last year.
Walsh was also in the saddle as 2/1 favourite Bleu Berry came from off the pace to land the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle. He will step up to Grade One company at Punchestown.
Former champion jockey Townend wrapped up the treble when taking the 2m4f Grade Two novice hurdle on 10/1 shot Al Boum Photo, another heading for Punchestown.
Athenry trainer Val O’Brien teamed up with Mikey Fogarty to win the opening four-year-old maiden hurdle with 9/2 chance From Eden. Another winner at the same price was Close Shave, which gave Barry Geraghty a winner as he returned from injury in the novice handicap hurdle for trainer Jessica Harrington.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup winning-trainer was also on the mark with Woodland Opera which easily won the beginners’ chase under Robbie Power at odds of 4/5 favourite.
Niall Madden saddled 14/1 chance Aa Bee See to win the 2m4f handicap hurdle. The winner was ridden by the trainer’s son and namesake.
Fozzy Stack, who was among the winners on his first day with a licence on the opening day of the new Flat season at Naas last week, built on that promising start with a double at Cork on Sunday.
Both winners were partnered by his stable jockey Chris Hayes who had the easiest of times on 4/11 favourite Son Of Rest in the 5f maiden. He didn’t have to work much harder on 100/30 chance Angel Island, which comfortably landed the fillies maiden over the extended mile.
Curragh trainer Willie McCreery was responsible for two winners, landing the biggest prize of the day when 3/1 shot Downforce took the 5f Listed Cork Stakes by all of 12 lengths under Billy Lee.
McCreery also supplied 17-year-old Nathan Crosse, from Cahir with his first winner as he partnered 6/1 shot Elm Grove to success in the apprentice handicap.
McCreery’s fellow Curragh trainer Johnny Murtagh was on the mark with the Connor King-ridden Maximus Daia which won the 7f maiden at odds of 25/1.
Ger Lyons and Colin Keane were in the winners’ enclosure on the opening day of the season and struck again as 9/4 chance Hansian Prince won the rated race.
Jessica Harrington added to her two winners at Fairyhouse as the Colm O’Donoghue-ridden Make It Hurrah won the concluding handicap at odds of 7/1.
The final National Hunt meeting of the season at Navan was good to trainers Tom Gibney and Stuart Crawford and to jockeys Paul Townend and Jonathan Moore who all recorded doubles at the Meath venue on Saturday.
Crawford won the opening two races. He partnered up with Townend as 4/1 favourite Our Valentina landed the mares’ maiden hurdle and with Eamonn Corbett who won the colts’ and geldings’ equivalent on 6/1 chance Jimmy Breekie.
Townend got his second winner when taking the beginners’ chase on another 6/1 shot Champagne Harmony for Galway trainer Stephen Mahon. Kells trainer Tom Gibney recorded the first double of his career and he shared both winners with Jonathan Moore.
Next Bend was their first winner of the day when taking the 2m handicap hurdle at odds of 16/1 and 11/1 shot Stoughan Cross completed the brace when successful in the 2m4f handicap chase.
Another Wexford rider on the scoresheet was Mikey Fogarty, who teamed up with Strandhill trainer Brian McMahon to win the 2m6f handicap hurdle with 16/1 chance Seskinane.
Nenagh trainer Ray Hackett and Tommy Brett took the winners’ bumper with 11/4 chance Crackerdancer, who was an impressive winner as she romped home by all of 20 lengths.
Much to the delight of punters, Aidan O’Brien struck with two winners at Dundalk on Friday night.
He was on the mark with 6/4 favourite Asking, who won the 8f maiden in the hands of his daughter Ana. He followed up when 30/100 favourite The Anvil, ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, won the 10f maiden.
Racing began with success for 13/8 favourite Fille Du Septembre in the 5f fillies’ maiden for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen.
Swish won the median auction race for Curragh trainer Johnny Feane and Kevin Manning at odds of 11/10 favourite. The winning rider went on to complete a double of his own when 4/1 chance Elusive Approach took the 7f handicap for Jim Bolger.
David Marnane and Wayne Lordan combined to win the 7f handicap with 9/2 chance Split The Atom while Tom Mullins and Maynooth apprentice Sean Davis landed the 12f handicap with 8/1 shot Repare Mon.
Principle Calls Shots
The Gordon Elliott-trained General Principle was the big winner on the annual student raceday at Limerick on Thursday.
Sent off the 4/5 favourite, he had little difficulty in landing the Grade Three Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase under Bryan Cooper and now heads for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
Rachael Blackmore extended her lead over Donagh Meyler to five winners in the conditional jockey’s championship when she partnered the Ellmarie Holden-trained 7/2 chance Lachares to a cosy success in the rated novice hurdle.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh clicked with their only runner of the day as Karalee made a winning return to action in the mares’ hurdle. She hadn’t been seen since scoring at the Killarney meeting in May of 2015 and was successful at odds of 1/2 favourite.
Another odds-on shot to visit the winners’ enclosure was Blast Of Koeman, who took the maiden hurdle for Robert Tyner and Phillip Enright. He was returned a 4/6 shot.
Other winning favourites on the day were 5/2 chance Adreamstillalive for Henry de Bromhead and David Mullins in the 2m handicap hurdle as well as 9/4 shot Mortal for Joseph O’Brien and Patrick Mullins in the bumper.
On a bad day for bookmakers, the longest-priced winner was 6/1 chance Black Zero which won the handicap chase for Shannon trainer Michael McDonagh and Mark Enright, who became a father for the first time a week earlier.
Fairyhouse Racecourse has announced a new sponsorship agreement with Avoca for the Grade Two Avoca Dunboyne Hurdle on Easter Monday, April 17.
The €50,000 race forms part of the second day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival weekend, which takes place from April 16 to 18. This race has produced top quality horses such as Slowmotion, who won in the colours of J.P. McManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Barry Geraghty. Other winners included the Willie Mullins-trained Business Sivola (2015) and Ivan Grozny (2014).
Today (Wednesday) - Leopardstown (first race 3.30pm). Tomorrow (Thursday) - Limerick (2pm). Friday - Wexford (4.35pm), Dundalk (5.55pm). Saturday - Leopardstown (1.50pm). Sunday - Naas (1.55pm), Tramore (2.05pm).