There was though some extremely competitive fare on offer and Derek O’Connor moved ever closer to the magical 1000 winner mark in points by recording his 998 hunt racing success aboard Timmy Hyde’s newcomer Walking In The Air in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
A €44,000 graduate of the 2013 Derby sale, Walking In The Air (2/1) and Christmas Twenty dominated the race from the outset until the eventual winner asserted on the lengthy approach to the final of the 15 obstacles.
Whilst Inchiquin Star went second in the closing stages, he was still some three lengths adrift at the line with Christmas Twenty returning a further head adrift in third spot.
“He loves jumping and galloping. He could be a star for the future, there are no plans as today was the plan,” said the handler’s son Tim Hyde Junior.
Adrian Maguire’s Seventh Sign (2/5) booked his passage to next month’s Cheltenham Foxhunters by recording a bloodless success with Declan Queally in the five-runner open.
No match for Prince De Beauchene when finishing second to Willie Mullins’ charge in a Thurles hunters chase last month, Seventh Sign led until joined by runner-up Glenwood Knight from half-way. With Glenwood Knight erring three out, Seventh Sign asserted from there to beat Patrick Ryan’s admirable veteran by ten lengths and by doing so, the Masterson Holdings Partnership-owned six-year-old was supplementing his autumn victories at Kilworth and Boulta.
Land-owner Jimmy Mangan sent out two winners and his newcomer Doitforthevillage (6/1) led home a stable one-two in the confined hunt maiden.
Tea Spot Spout sent out with the intention of making all here and Sean Aherne’s charge still held a fractional advantage over Doitforthevillage when cruelly unseating Sheila Ahern, who was duly concussed, at the final fence. The six-year-old Doitforthevillage was then left clear with Eoin O’Brien to dismiss the only other finisher Atlantic Breaker by ten lengths in the colours of Mangan’s wife Mary.
Oscar Delta’s own-brother Vanguard (9/4), who was placed on no less than nine previous occasions, completed Mangan’s brace by attaining a well-deserved success with Jamie Codd in the closing six-year-old and upwards geldings’ maiden.
Vanguard had just moved past Freddies Pursuit when losing some momentum at the final fence. Soon back on an even keel, the Karen O’Driscoll-owned Vanguard then readily fought off Freddies Pursuit by a half-length to put himself in line for a possible tilt at a hunters chase.
Freddies Pursuit’s handler Colin Bowe and rider Barry O’Neill combined for two winners, the pair getting off the mark courtesy of Crazyheart (5/1) in the opening four-year-old maiden.
Crazyheart and Minella Awards had the race to themselves from three out and, with the latter erring when still holding every chance at the final fence, the Alhaarth-sired chesnut dug deep on the flat to score by a neck. Crazyheart, a graduate of the 2013 Goresbridge breeze up sale, represents Sean O’Neill from Kilcullen who also owns Bowe’s useful five-year-old hurdler Shantou Flyer.
Bowe and O’Neill were back in the coveted number one slot just half an hour later following the facile success of last month’s Dungarvan runner-up Answer Ur Phone (9/4) in the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden.
Answer Ur Phone, an initial winner as an owner for Sean Shanahan from Mitchelstown, made smooth progress from three out to pick up the running before the final fence and she then bounded clear to contain long-time leader Goulane Ruby by three lengths. A tilt at next month’s Gain Mares’ Final on March 17th is now on the agenda for Answer Ur Phone.