By Tommy Lyons
There were two winners for Eric McNamara and three for Willie Mullins, but Midleton jockey Paul Townend stole the show with a four-timer on the opening day of the 2018 Harvest Festival in Listowel.
Four winners for three trainers was Townend’s lot as he proved the star turn on the day.
It was all very easy to start with, as Wicklow Brave justified long-odds-on favouritism in the three-runner Kerrymaid Hurdle. Coming here on the back of victories at 4-5, 1-6, and 1-25, the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old was sent off 1-16 to complete his four-timer and did so effortlessly.
Townend had to work much harder for his second success, but his mount, the Eric McNamara-trained Percy Veer, proved a very willing partner as the stuck his neck out to deny Macgiloney and Presentingprincess in the Charleville Cheese Maiden Hurdle.
Said McNamara: “He ran well in Killarney, where he would have finished second in a good race but for unseating at the last, so stepping back into maiden company we were hopeful.
“He loves that ground and is crying out for every yard of three miles.
“I love this place and we always try to have a winner here, if possible. The pressure is off now.”
Humm Baby became leg three of the four-timer when taking the Low Low Irish EBF Mares’ Handicap Hurdle for trainer Michael Hourigan. The six-year-old was a 50-1 chance when winning his bumper at this track in June 2017, but this time she was a well-backed 5-1 favourite to land the spoils.
The mare travelled sweetly but had to pick up for pressure to first get the better of Cerealice, and then hold the late run of reserve and recent winner Demi Plie.
“She has been a bit unlucky through the summer, and there were days where she probably should have won, but she’s not the easiest of rides,” said Hourigan. “She’s small and light and not one you’d pull out quickly, so she’ll get a break before running at the Munster National meeting in Limerick.”
Townend completed his four-timer aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Camelie De Cotte, in the Cheesestrings Mares’ Novice Chase.
Lightly raced and ultimately quite disappointing over hurdles, she took to chasing straight away, winning at Roscommon courtesy of a fine round of jumping. Yesterday’s race was a big step up, but the progressive six-year-old made light of the task, jumping well in the main and proving far too good for her rivals.
“Bar the last, she was very good,” said Townend. “But she was very good in Roscommon and good the first day she schooled at home. She’s getting older and growing up a bit, and is more manageable now.”
Kevin Brouder was the man on top when Black Scorpion completed McNamara’s double by taking the Kerry Group Handicap Chase. Having just his second run since joining the stable, he gave a display of jumping and ran on stoutly to deny the ultra-game Kylecrue a fourth consecutive victory in the race.
“I’d say he has given as good an exhibition of jumping around there as any horse has ever given in Listowel,” said McNamara. “He jumped absolutely brilliant.
“Kevin gave him a great ride. John Gleeson has done an awful lot of work with him, and I’m just lucky to have got him at this stage in his career. He’s improving, and he’ll have no problem getting three miles.
“It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could turn out again on Saturday, but the Munster National would definitely be a target, and I wouldn’t mind winning another Kerry National, and he might just be the horse to do it next year.”
Chief Justice looked a nice prospect when defying a penalty in the opening race, the Kerry Group 3-Y-O Hurdle. The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding, a winner over hurdles at Worcester for Richard Fahey, was making his debut for Gordon Elliott and it provided a smooth success.
A mistake at the second-last delayed the inevitable as he had travelled well to that point and it looked a case of ‘how far?’ A much better jump at the last, where long-time leader Chica Buena faltered, sealed the deal, and he ran on to win by five lengths, in the hands of Davy Russell.
Scaglietti became the third winner of the day for Willie Mullins when getting up late to take the Kerry Group Flat Race under Patrick Mullins. The even-money favourite, a close relation to Ebor winner Sesenta and classy hurdler William Henry, had to survive a stewards’ enquiry before being confirmed the winner.
Said the winning rider: “She’s a sister to Sesenta, who won the Ebor for us, and only slightly bigger than her – Sesenta was the smallest we ever had. She was very green and did well to win.
“Often times with those small fillies it’s hard to get a clear run and we had to come wide, which was not ideal. We went steady for this track and ground, which suited me being on a flat horse against two Scorpions, and I think she’ll improve a lot.”