Listen Dear, trained for the Supreme Horse Racing Club by Willie Mullins, proved the star of Ballinrobe’s final meeting of 2016 yesterday when making an impressive chasing debut in the Connacht Tribune Beginners Chase.
Adopting her customary front-running style, the six-year-old mare, successful three times over hurdles and off the track since June, jumped exuberantly — although getting in a little close to a couple of fences, including the last — and had her rivals at full stretch from an early stage.
Chief market rival Mick Thonic chased the winner all the way, but was held when making a couple of late mistakes, ultimately losing second spot to Lucky Pat.
However, Listen Dear was away and gone and Ruby Walsh’s mount came home, hard held, 20 lengths clear of her nearest rival.
“She had the class on form and showed it,” said Walsh in the winner’s enclosure. “She won a Grade 3 over hurdles and has taken to fences well. She jumped super for a first-timer and did it well. She’s a winning pointer and had been schooling well at home and I’ll leave it to Willie to decide where she’ll go next.”
Joseph O’Brien saddled a one-two in the opening Sponsors Day At Ballinrobe 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle, with victory, by just a short-head, going to 6/4 favourite Lord Justice. It was a third winner as a professional for the trainer’s first cousin J J Slevin, over Ziz Zag and Jody McGarvey.
“Joseph is looking after me, so I’m happy I turned professional, at least for now,” quipped the winning rider. “This is a grand horse. He improved from his run in Listowel, although the ground is as soft as he’d like. He’ll be a nice horse, on better ground, next spring and summer.”
The Fogarty brothers, Jonathan and Mikey, struck again with 11/8 favourite Tornado Watch in the Tuam Herald Handicap Hurdle, the seven-year-old scoring readily to defy a 12lb hike for his recent success in Downpatrick. He stretched clear on the run-in to beat Mic Milano by four-and-a-half lengths.
Mikey Fogarty said: “Anything after the last day [Downpatrick] is a bonus. He won well and, although he’s entered for Navan on Saturday, I don’t know if he’ll run again.”
Trained in Carnmore Stud (Oranmore) by Fergus Hanley, 10-year-old The Black Russian returned to winning ways — his first success since winning the beginners chase on this card in 2014 — when making all under Rachael Blackmore to land the John Mulhern Handicap Hurdle at the expense of Runyon Rattler.
Hanley referred to Blackmore’s handling of the winner as “a dinger of a ride” and explained: “He’s been a bit unlucky the last twice and deserved this. He has to go right-handed, so it’s hard to find races for him. If the ground isn’t too bad, he might run over fences in Sligo next week.”
Another Co Galway handler Steve Mahon was also on the mark, when 93-rated Freedom Statue (Paul Townend) proved a facile 10/1 winner of the mares maiden hurdle, beating favourite Inchiquin High by 12 lengths and prompting her trainer to admit: “I was expecting a good run, but that’s a bit of a surprise. She’ll probably head to Ballybrit, for a handicap, next month.”
Another trainer with a good record at the Mayo track, in-form John Ryan, won the Brendan McNulty Memorial Handicap Hurdle with Father Jed, ridden by Danny Mullins, which followed-up his recent win at Galway, off a 7lb. higher mark, coming from well off the pace to get the better of the flattering Bawnmore Lass.
Ryan was denied a double when his Willow Grange had to settle for the runner-up berth behind Robert Tyner’s 20/1 shot Moss Grove (Shane Crimin) in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase.
The J B Staunton Memorial Chase was another prize to go to Co Galway, as Bashful Beauty, winner of the beginners chase at this meeting last year, produced a gutsy display under Jack Kennedy to see off Eight Till Late after favourite Another Rebel was withdrawn at the start.
Having made the running, the Norman Lee-trained Bashful Beauty was headed by Eight Till Late before rising, a length down, at the final fence, but rallied strongly on the run-in to edge ahead close home and score by a half-length.
“I wasn’t expecting that, but we’ll take it,” said a delighted Norman Lee.
“He’s been a great servant and won here this day last year. He might run over hurdles at Navan on Saturday. He’d appreciate a bit of better ground.”
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