Backed from 5/2 to 15/8 favouritism, the Michael Hourigan-trained five-year-old, patiently handled by talented 7lb. claimer Adrian Heskin, recorded a smooth four and a half lengths win over front-running Kusadasi, taking command on the run-in.
Hourigan admitted: “I bred and sold this fellow and I’ve always considered him a very good horse. But today is the first time he’s shown what he’s capable of. My horses just weren’t running well for a long time.
“He did his job well out there and this is a good spot for him to win for Joe (Craig). I’d love to think that he’ll be half as good as Beef Or Salmon. But I suppose if he was a third as good, we’d settle for that. He’s only rising six and chasing will be his game. He’d appreciate better ground.”
In-form Andrew McNamara was seen at his strongest on board the locally-trained Honest Man, a gallant short-head conqueror of the flattering Posh Bird in the opening Bet With Downpatrick Tote Handicap Hurdle.
Headed on the run-in by the Andrew Thornton-ridden runner-up, Honest Man battle courageously to earn the spoils by the minimum margin, prompting his always realistic trainer Brian Hamilton to comment: “He’s a low-grade handicapper, but it’s nice to win with him again. He battled well and stayed on up the hill. He’s entered at Down Royal next week and will probably go there.”
Hamilton looked set to complete a double when favourite Chief Oscar, ridden by Andrew Thornton, set sail for home after the third last flight in the Martinstown Opportunity Novice Handicap Hurdle.
But the eight-year-old course specialist, bidding for his third win on the track, was readily brushed aside on the run-in by top-weight Major Key, ridden for Mervyn Torrens by Conor Maxwell. Torrens commented: “He’s just a little handicapper but I fancied him a bit today. He disappointed me last time at Down Royal when some of our horses seemed to be out of sorts. But he’s been going well at home and I’ll look for another similar handicap for him.”
Successful with the Barry Geraghty-ridden Old McDonald in a Ludlow bumper on Thursday, Noel Glynn was on the mark again when Tilly Ann made a successful fencing debut in the Irish Racing Annual 2009 Beginners Chase.
Ridden by Davy Condon, the four-year-old Turtle Island filly, having her first run in ten months, was prominent throughout and stayed on stoutly to keep joint-favourites Cru and Oran Flyer at bay.
Glynn was not present, but winning owner Martin Baker, a neighbour of the trainer in County Clare, explained: “She jumped and travelled well in the ground and it was a big help that she was getting so much weight from the others.”
The Saintfield Windows Systems Maiden Hunters Chase produced a big shock when even-money favourite Bally Wall (Derek O’Connor) was nailed in the last fifty yards and beaten a neck by 25/1 chance Kilcassock Vic, a first winner for Meath teenager Graham Watters (18), who did well to survive a mistake at the second last fence before launching a decisive late challenge.
Kilcassock Vic is trained by James Lambe, who said: “He’s a decent horse on a going day but he’s had problems with bursting blood vessels. Graham gave him a fantastic ride, although I was worried that the horse wouldn’t handle the ground. He’s in again at Down Royal next Friday and might go there.”
Out of luck with Goban Saor earlier, Edward O’Grady continued his successful run when Lou’s Coole Girl landed the bumper in the hands of 7lb.claimer Martin Burke and survived the subsequent Stewards Enquiry. The Bob Back mare, in the colours of the Star Syndicate, was in front soon after halfway and triumphed by a lengths and a half, despite hanging left in the closing sages and slightly impeding the Katie Walsh-ridden runner-up.