MOUSE Morris enjoyed a welcome change of fortune when saddling a double with the Robcour-owned pair Gentlemansgame and French Dynamite, the latter getting up right on the line to land the featured Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase.
Ciel De Neige was sent off the 4/11 favourite against just four rivals in the Grade 3 two-mile, two-furlong highlight and Mark Walsh’s mount attempted to make all.
However, Darragh O’Keeffe produced French Dynamite with a strong challenge at the last and the well-supported 9/4 chance just proved the stronger in literally the final stride to score by a nose. There was a 32-length gap back to The Little Yank in third.
“That (good) ground suits him. He jumped well,” said the trainer.
Gentlemansgame was Rachael Blackmore’s only ride on the day and understandably she was in demand with racegoers seeking autographs and photos just 24 hours after her tremendous Gold Cup triumph on A Plus Tard.
The Killenaule rider didn’t disappoint her army of fans as the front-running 11/8 favourite took command from the penultimate flight for a convincing eight-and-a-half-length victory over Unexpected Depth in the two-mile, seven-furlong Carey Glass Hurdle.
“It’s like buses!” quipped Morris, who was doubling his seasonal tally with this double.
“The horse was on song today and loves that ground. I’m just waiting to go over fences with him.
“He got injured for a while but is straightforward and his hurdles form was savage.”
Darragh O’Keeffe also recorded a double on the afternoon when sending the well-backed Presenting Point – sent off 11/2 but available at 20/1 overnight – to the front four out in the Duggan Veterinary 4cyte For Horses Handicap Chase and he kept on well from the last to beat Champagne Beauty by a length and a half.
“He was unlucky here before Christmas when he was chinned on the line and Darragh gave him a savage ride today, as I thought he was beaten several times. He likes Thurles and we’ll keep him to this grade. The (Thade Quill) syndicate are all Ballyclough lads,” said trainer Eoghan O’Grady.
FRANCIS Casey has long had the BoyleSports Irish Grand National in mind for Max Flamingo and he warmed up for the Fairyhouse marathon by readily landing the odds in the two-mile, six-furlong Horse & Jockey Beginners’ Chase.
The 4/7 favourite, owned by the trainer’s mother June, headed Bacardys three out and Denis O’Regan oozed confidence in the straight as the Kalanisi gelding cruised home to score by a very easy three-quarters of a length.
Casey said, “His whole plan is the Irish National. The weights are out next week, but he is rated 142 and should get in. I don’t know if this will affect his handicap mark or not but I don’t think the second horse (Bacardys) is a 142-rated horse, so he probably ran to his mark.
“I didn’t really want to win our beginners’ chase at this time of year but we were disappointed with his jumping the last day, so we said we’d go for this. Denis said he loved the ground but wouldn’t want it any quicker.
“He’ll run in the Irish National next and us small men have to dream big!”
Manage for Mullins
Willie Mullins, denied earlier with both Ciel De Neige and Bacardys, added to his record Cheltenham haul on the week when Micro Manage easily justified prohibitive odds in the Adare Manor Opportunity Maiden Hurdle.
The classy flat performer had failed to win in four previous attempts in maiden hurdles but routed his 17 rivals here at odds of 1/8. Jack Foley made all on the hot-pot and, having stretched well clear before the straight, was far from fluent at the final two flights but still came home on a tight rein 11 lengths clear of Fanoir.
“I had ridden him a few times at home but it was my first time riding him on the track,” said Foley, sporting the colours of Merriebelle Irish Farm Limited. “It was only a case of him getting from A to B and there was plenty left as I couldn’t pull him up. I’d say he’ll have no problem trip-wise - he is versatile.”
THE final two races on the card both produced big-priced winners, notably the Jimmy Neville Memorial Handicap Hurdle where Cafe Del Mar swooped late under Philip Donovan to record a 50/1 shock.
Pale Blue Dot was all the rage for this two-mile, seven-furlong stamina test and, after being supported at all rates from 6/1 down to 13/8 favourite, looked sure to land the gamble when three lengths clear for trainer/rider Denis Hogan early on the run-in.
However, Cafe Del Mar really finished with a flourish in the final 100 yards getting up to score by half a length.
The winner is trained near Carrick-on-Suir by John O’Callaghan for David Phelan and Donovan commented: “It was her first run in a handicap and it was my first time riding for John. She is game and tries hard. She should be competitive at the summer tracks.”
No Looking Back came from virtually last to first in the straight to score at 25/1 on his debut in the www.thurlesraces.ie (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race. Petram, a rare bumper runner for Johnny Murtagh, appeared to have made a winning move when quickening past the front-running Hansard over a furlong out.
However, No Looking Back was making relentless progress under Johnny Barry and powered home on the outer inside the final furlong to beat Cumhacht by a neck with Petram having to settle for third a further head adrift.
Winning trainer Oliver McKiernan said: “He surprised me as I thought the ground wasn’t soft enough for him. I told Johnny to educate him but not to be in the middle of horses hopping around, and don’t mind if you are on the outside. We weren’t expecting to win to be honest.”