THE former Triumph Hurdle heroine Burning Victory booked a return trip to Cheltenham as normal service resumed for Willie Mullins in the Grade 3 Watch Racing TV Quevega Mares Hurdle.
Black Tears broke the champion trainer’s stranglehold on this race last year but he duly resumed his supremacy in this Grade 3 over an extended two and a half miles with the Audrey Turley-owned six-year-old.
A dual winner on the flat in France last summer and also second in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket, Burning Victory produced an enthusiastic display under Paul Townend.
The 1/2 favourite set a brisk tempo up front and held a decent lead for most of this race with the result that victory looked assured from before the turn-in.
To her credit Queens Brook closed right up on the winner on the run in, but she was still a length and a half down at the line.
“I’m very happy and I think she will go for the Mares’ Hurdle now,” declared Mullins who was making it six wins in the last seven runnings of this race.
“The cheekpieces were a big help to her and I think she would have needed this too. I thought today was the first time she jumped without making a mistake even though she jumped a little tall.”
Ramillies made it a double for the trainer and rider in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
The Marie Donnelly-owned grey showed lots of promise on his comeback behind stablemate The Nice Guy at Naas last month and looked a worthy 4/9 favourite.
Ramillies could have jumped better but was still much too strong for these rivals and opened up a commanding lead from the turn-in to defeat The Waltzer by seven lengths.
“He improved nicely from the last day. He doesn’t have much respect for his hurdles and would need to jump better if he goes for the Albert Bartlett but he stays well and could acquit himself well if he goes there,” declared the trainer.
The card concluded with another quality effort which was supplied by the Gordon Elliott newcomer Imagine in the Join Racing TV Now INH Flat Race for four-year-olds.
The Edelle Logan-owned son of Montmartre, who hails from a fine French family, was returned a heavily backed 4/9 favourite.
There was lots of class about the manner in which he eased into contention for Jamie Codd before the straight and he brushed aside his opponents over the last furlong and a half to win by five and a half lengths.
“He’s a smart horse who had been going nicely at home. He’s a horse with a lovely future and we’ll probably consider the bumper at Cheltenham now,” observed the trainer.
OWNER-trainer Barry Connell made it two winners in as many days and equalled his nine-winner haul from last season as the Sean Flanagan-ridden My Immortal (11/2) returned from five months off to land the Racing TV-sponsored handicap hurdle over an extended three miles.
The useful six-year-old, who won over a similar trip at Kilbeggan in August, took charge of this race before the last and recovered well from a blunder there to defeat Portstorm by four and a half lengths.
“The ground was too quick for him when he was second in Listowel and he got jarred up there. He wants it soft and we’ll give him a little break and prepare him for a 0-140 rated handicap hurdle over two and three-quarter miles at Fairyhouse over Easter,” stated Connell.
The Pat Flynn-trained Walnut Beach (9/4) produced a nice effort to get off the mark over timber at the third attempt in the Join Racing TV Now Maiden Hurdle.
The Free Eagle gelding had been beaten less than a length on his first two outings over jumps and was produced with a well-timed effort by Shane Fitzgerald to collar and head the front-running favourite Haxo after the last and carry the day by just under three lengths. The winner is owned by Helena Brassil.
PAUL Nolan has now moved on to his best seasonal tally for 11 years – 25 winners – after Martha Divine struck at 25/1 in the Racing TV-sponsored mares’ maiden hurdle over two and three-quarter miles. The Sonja Buckley and Anne Coffey-owned daughter of Telescope progressed well from a respectable showing behind Rock On Cassie here last month with a game effort. She responded well to Sean O’Keeffe’s urgings after the last to get the better of Emily Roebling by a length and a quarter.
“She didn’t jump well last time and considering how she jumped I was delighted with where she finished (seventh). She winged hurdles today and got a lovely ride from Sean,” reflected Nolan.
Eamonn O’Connell and his son Eoin combined to land the first division of the 80-95 rated Racing TV-sponsored handicap hurdle as The Niffler, in the colours of Kenneth James Mullen, shrugged aside the burden of top-weight.
On just his sixth career start and his first in a handicap the five-year-old arrived travelling smoothly at the entrance to the straight and he overcame a last flight error to defeat Command Chain by a length and three-parts.
The winner went off quite a well supported 11/1 chance and looks like one that could easily strike again in the coming weeks.
The other division of that two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle served up a dramatic and unfortunate conclusion as The Dreams Alive took a fatal fall at the last when holding every chance.
This left Indie Belle (10/1) to emerge victorious as she came home just under four lengths ahead of the top-weight, Wild Hunt. Robert Widger trains the winner for his wife, Paula, and this was the daughter of Flemensfirth’s first win from nine career starts.