Trainer Karl Thornton has his small string in tremendous form and Manuka gave the Skerries handler his third winner in three days when landing the Powerstown Demesne Qualified Riders’ Handicap Hurdle under Johnny Barry.
Having his first run for the stable, little more than a month after joining the yard, he travelled strongly throughout, was brought wide for better ground by Barry, and ran on strongly to score by half a length, from the fast-finishing Omega Springs.
“I pre-trained this horse before he went off to bigger yards, but I always thought a lot of him and when he came up for sale, six weeks ago, was always going to buy him,” said Thornton.
“He jumped very well and Johnny gave him a great ride. I was worried about the ground, but he got away with it.”
The in-form trainer, making quite a name for himself, has just 12 horses in training, half of which are point to pointers. He has had six winners and two seconds from his last nine runners, all since September 25, and, with two runners today and three more tomorrow, the entire ‘track’ string will have run within three days.
Emcon made a most encouraging start to her chasing career when taking the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Beginners’ Chase under Kevin Sexton.
The Willie Austin-trained six-year-old has plenty of scope for fences, and it showed as she gave a fine exhibition of jumping, particularly over the last couple when well-backed favourite Carrigmoorna Rock threatened to really put it up to her.
Stretching out well after the last, the daughter of Vinnie Roe pulled nicely clear and should prove a potent force in mares’ chase throughout the winter.
Said Austin: “She jumped very well, in fact she probably jumped the fences better than she jumped hurdles. We’ll keep her to novice events now, and she’ll cope well with softer ground.”
Trainer Pat Fahy and jockey Ruby Walsh combined to take the opening race, a mares’ maiden hurdle, with Ten Times Better.
Winner of a bumper at the previous meeting here, she was sent off the 7-4 favourite to follow up, and did so with plenty to spare. Always travelling strongly, she took over before the turn for home, and eased clear to score by a wide margin, from the gambled-on Blazing West.
Said the winning trainer: “I’m surprised she won as well as she did – 8lbs is a lot to be giving away – but Conor (Fahy, son) said she’s the best leaper we’ve had for some time.
Of her name, Fahy revealed: “When I told George (Moore, owner) I thought we had a good one (in her full brother Stack The Deck), he said ‘I don’t care how good he is, the filly is ten times better’. We were laughing about that for a long time, but maybe he’s right.”
Gordon Elliott’s brilliant run continues unabated, and his Roman Gold took the Cashel Maiden Hurdle under a fine ride from Bryan Cooper. The imposing five-year-old was keen for much of the race, but Cooper rode a patient race, kidded his mount along for much of the trip, and sent him on approaching the second-last. Thereafter he was in control, and readily accounted for the well-backed Tongie.
“His jumping wasn’t the best, but he’s a chaser in the making and entitled to improve,” said Cooper. “I don’t know where he’ll go next, but I wouldn’t mind if he went chasing now.”
The Joe Dullea-trained Damut had to pull out all the stops to complete his hat-trick, in the Clonmel Handicap Hurdle. Under an enterprising ride, Holeinthewall Bar tried to make all the running, and had his rivals on the stretch long before they turned for home.
However, Jonathan Burke got a great response from the game Damut and, in a thrilling finish, got the 11-10 favourite up to deny the long-time leader by half a length.
“The ground might have been a bit dead for him, and the small field may not have suited, but Johnny timed it well and gave him a great ride,” said Dullea.
“The handicapper can’t really be too hard on him after that. We’ll look for something around Christmas or New Year.”
Kennedys Mor earned due reward for consistency when battling bravely to fend off the challenge of Run For Firth in the three-mile Grahamnorris.com Handicap Hurdle. The John Murphy-trained eight-year-old slipped through to lead off the last bend, and ran on stoutly to score for David Mullins.
The Download The Attheraces App Rated Chase was the most valuable event on the card and Co Waterford trainer Henry De Bromhead recorded a one-two as Elegant Statesman asserted late to beat stable companion and long-time leader Never Complain.
Said De Bromhead: “I’m delighted with that as he was very disappointing the last time. It was less competitive today, which suited, and Mark (Walsh) gave him a great ride.
“The other horse (Never Complain) got in under the second-last, which helped the winner. I don’t think Elegant Statesman wants it a whole lot softer.”
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