Paul Carberry received a timely pre-Cheltenham boost when guiding Oscar Hill to an easy win in the Roadhouse Pun Novice Handicap Hurdle in Downpatrick yesterday, first leg of a double for trainer Gordon Elliott, completed when Carberry’s sister Nina partnered Spring Lane to an odds-on win in the bumper.
On his seventh ride since returning from a seven-week absence, caused by a broken collarbone sustained on a skiing holiday in January, the former champion made all on 5/4 favourite Oscar Hill, drawing clear from the third last to record a bloodless, thirty-one length victory over Mylerstown.
Winning trainer Elliott declared: “It was a bit of a bike race but he’s a tricky horse and it’s great for his owners that he won again. Paul said he was worried coming down the hill — he was so far clear that he thought he had to go around again.”
No worries either with the second leg of the Elliott double as 4/5 favourite Spring Lane took command three furlongs from home in the One Day At A Time Flat Race, stretching clear to beat Sceptre And Crown convincingly by sixteen lengths.
Elliott again admitted: “That was grand but, to be honest, it wasn’t a great race. This fellow wants two and a half miles and will probably go hurdling now. The owners have been with me since my early days, when I was training point-to-pointers.”
Paul Nolan, whose string has been under a bit of a cloud in recent months, was another trainer to savour success when Undone, ridden by 5lb. claimer Mikey Doran, outpointed favourite Sky Pilot by a half-length in the Bet With The Bookies Maiden Hurdle.
Nolan was not present, but his brother and assistant James commented: “We had a felling that he wasn’t a bumper horse and probably shouldn’t have run him in one at Punchestown last time. But Nina (Carberry) said that day that he was a trier and to go back hurdling with him.
“He’ll appreciate better ground and will be kept on the go over the summer. With a bit of luck, he’ll win a summer handicap over a trip. Mikey said he would have won by three or four lengths today, if he hadn’t hit the last.”
Less than a year after winning the Christies Foxhunters at Cheltenham and days before former charge Simonsig bids for Festival glory in the Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle, Ian Ferguson saddled Leighinmohr to land the opening Martinstown Opportunity in the hands of Ben Dalton.
The Catcher In The Rye gelding got home by a head after a tremendous tussle with Carsonstown Bridge, which made a costly mistake at the final flight, to retain his unbeaten record, after a point-to-point win and a racecourse debut success in a Musselburgh bumper.
Ferguson explained, “He came out of the Musselburgh race really well. We were planning a trip back to Ayr, but got word that the ground was heavy. I wanted to get another run into him and, although the ground was a bit slow for him today, it worked out well. He showed that he can battle, which is encouraging.”
Trained in County Derry by Noel Kelly, Charlie’s Vic followed-up an emphatic recent win in Punchestown when justifying 1/4 favouritism in the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Novice Hurdle.
Dropping back in trip and sent to the front by Derek Fox at the fourth, the Old Vic mare galloped on resolutely to beat Nanna Maura by four lengths, prompting her trainer to admit: “I was worried that it might be a bit soon after Punchestown. But it turned out to be straight-forward.”
He added: “We had to make it a gallop, because she was dropping down in trip and so she wouldn’t get caught out in a five-horse race — they can often be messy. She’s only five and, like most Old Vics, should keep maturing and improving. I hope to give her one more run before letting her off for the summer.”
The Crawford brothers struck when Call Box registered his second course success in the Square One Bar Dromara Handicap Hurdle, getting the better of Pink Goddess. Call Box was ridden by 7lb. claiming amateur Ben Crawford for his trainer-brother Stuart, who confirmed: “The plan all season has been to come back here for the Ulster National later in the month (March 25). He likes it around here.”
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