By John Ryan
ROGER LOUGHRAN yesterday banished the memory of a dreadful error of judgement at Leopardstown over Christmas when he guided Central House to an emphatic success in the Byrne Group plc Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.
Loughran picked up a 14-day ban over Christmas when he seemingly had a Grade One event at Leopardstown sewn up on Central House, only to mistake the winning post and eventually finish third.
The jockey was banned for 14 days after his dreadful gaffe on Dessie Hughes' star two-miler in a dramatic Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown last December.
Central House had made all the running in the race and was about a length in front when Loughran stood up 100 yards from the finish and raised his whip in triumph, believing he had ridden his first winner since turning professional the previous week.
His celebrations, however, were premature as the eased-down Central House was overtaken close home and eventually finished third, two and a quarter lengths behind the lucky winner Hi Cloy.
However, Central House's owner John Kenny and trainer Dessie Hughes stuck by the young jockey and he repaid their faith yesterday with a canny front-running ride aboard the 11-4 shot.
At the head of affairs throughout, Central House looked in danger as Accordion Etoile and Watson Lake loomed up at the second last but he found an extra gear and pulled away to notch a six-length success over the staying-on Jim. Leading novice Accordion Etoile plugged on for third while 9-4 favourite Watson Lake was a disappointing fourth.
"This is the high point of my career so far," Loughran admitted. "Everything has worked out OK in the end. The horse was brilliant today.
"The ban seemed like a very long time to be sat on the sidelines but the connections have stood by me and I'm very grateful.
"Dessie Hughes is a very fair man and he's stood behind me the whole way - he's been brilliant.
"Dessie told me he can go along at any pace I wanted and that's what I did today on him. He could have done with some company but he's picked up twice for me in the straight."
Central House had disappointed at Fairyhouse two weeks ago but Hughes is now focusing on the Queen Mother Champion Chase after this resounding return to form.
"We'll go straight to Cheltenham with him now. He can go two miles at a really good pace and keep it up," he said.
"There was no doubting his performance today he has beaten them fair and square.
"His effort petered out at Cheltenham last year but he is a much stronger horse this time round.
"He's holding on to his condition much better this season."
Mounthenry registered a minor surprise when lifting the Grade Two Byrne Group plc Novice Hurdle at the expense of 10-11 favourite Iktitaf.
The Charles Byrnes-trained winner was sent off a 3-1 shot after he had finished third behind Noel Meade's runner in a Grade One event at Fairyhouse in December.
However, a 7lb pull in the weights and a positive ride from Andrew McNamara helped the six-year-old claim the prize by one and a half lengths.
"He is a tough horse and he didn't run over Christmas because he didn't get his conditions," McNamara said.
"I didn't really want to make the running on him and luckily Ceeawayhome came with us for a bit which helped me get him into a rhythm.
"I didn't ride him in the Royal Bond but it seemed to me like they went too slow for him that day so I thought we may as well make it a test today and it worked.
"Going to the second last I thought he (Iktitaf) was going to pick me up for speed but my fellow went on again."
It later transpired Iktitaf had suffered a bad cut to his near fore knee which will definitely force him out of the Cheltenham Festival and possibly the rest of the season.
Memories of 1999 Grand National winner Bobbyjo were evoked when Kings Glen (16-1) took the A Space Cabins Grand National Trial Handicap Chase. Owner Robert Burke, trainer Tom Carberry and his jockey son Paul teamed up for success seven years ago but it was his younger son, Philip, who was aboard Kings Glen.
He just held on in a driving finish from Shivermetimber and his elder sibling.