THE Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle, the second Grade 1 on the card at Punchestown last night, was billed as a match between First Lieutenant and So Young.
But they were both very disappointing. First Lieutenant could only stay on at the one pace to fill third, while So Young was in trouble a long way out and trailed in last of the six runners.
Victory went to Spirit Of Adjisa, powerfully handled by Richard Johnson, and a first ever success in Ireland for rising young Welsh trainer, Tim Vaughan.
Spirit Of Adjisa made practically all of the running, battling on strongly on the flat to hold Prima Vista by a short head.
Commented a jubilant Vaughan: “Punchestown has been fantastic to us and we will be back.
“We filled him with confidence on low-grade tracks and Richard said to give Cheltenham a miss.
“We decided to give it a go here and the owners are anxious now for a flat campaign and then back over hurdles next season.”
After Ruby Walsh had lifted Uncle Junior home in The Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club Handicap Chase, Willie Mullins said: “That was the ride of the week.”
This was vintage Walsh, as he hunted around at the back, before beginning to edge closer through the final mile.
But when Uncle Junior got it all wrong three out it looked as if his chance was gone and then he was none too clever at the next either.
But, undaunted, Walsh refused to accept defeat and he cajoled Uncle Junior to such an extent that he won going away in the end.
“The drier ground has made a difference and we might run him in the Galway Plate now”, said Mullins.
He saddled three of the first four home, including the mare Pomme Tiepy in third. This was her last race, as she is in foal to King’s Theatre.
Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, on the mark with Captain Chris on Thursday, combined to take the Mick Tent Memorial Novice Handicap Chase with Wishfull Thinking.
This was a smashing performance by the imposing eight-year-old, who shrugged off the burden of top weight with real style.
Johnson, successful later on Spirit Of Adjisa, soon decided the pace wasn’t strong enough and allowed his charge to lead over the third fence.
Blazing Tempo ranged up as a possible danger in the straight, but she blundered two out and was always fighting a losing battle after that.
“He is very tough and has developed into a natural front-runner”, said Hobbs. “It is hard to know what his trip is, a bit like Captain Chris, we can go up or down with him. He has improved so much from where he was twelve months ago.”
The Robert Tyner-trained Whatwillwecallher bounded ahead early in the straight for Gerry Mangan to easily land the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Fillies Scheme Premier Bumper.
Inevitably, you could only recall with real sadness the recent death of Robert and Mary Tyner’s son, Jack.
He won on Whatwillwecallher at Limerick in January and then lost his fight for life, following a fall at a point-to-point at Dungarvan.
Tony McCoy and owner, J P McManus, have enjoyed a good week and their Kid Cassidy toyed with the opposition in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle.
The attendance was 25,186 as against 28,664 last year.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved