Akshar makes pleasing hurdling debut

DERMOT WELD added to his gains earlier in the week with Queen Astrid when Akshar made a successful debut over jumps in the O’Dwyers’ Stillorgan Orchard Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown yesterday.

Typical of an inmate from this source, he knew his job really well and jumped like an old hand for Barry Geraghty.

Ocras Mor led two out, but it always looked in the straight that the race would end as a contest when Geraghty pressed the button.

The winner did get in close at the last, though, and had to be roused in the end to get up close home and score by a neck.

“If he didn’t win today, he was due to be sent to race in Dubai”, reported Weld. “He did it nicely and got a lovely ride from Barry.

“You won’t see him again now until about February. We will know more then and see where he might go after that.”

Akshar was given a 20-1 quote for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by both Grahams and Cashmans.

Geraghty completed a double when Emotional Moment ran his rivals ragged in the woodies.com Christmas Hurdle.

He is trained by Tom Taaffe, who must feel right now that he can just about walk on water.

Emotional Moment, winning his tenth race, picked it up six from home and steadily drew away to score by a whopping 25 lengths.

“I told Barry to put it to them and that’s exactly what he did”, said Taaffe. “He’s an amazing horse and handles all ground.

“He will head to Gowran Park next (January 20) and will get an entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He will have to go for it after that, but isn’t good enough!”

John Kiely’s Blazing Liss is really getting her act together and followed a recent Cork success with a smooth victory in the O2 Hurdle.

She has been dogged by indifferent jumping, but, except for the first, was good through the contest.

Partnered with confidence by in-form Davy Russell, Blazing Liss made all and had little trouble shaking off Anyportinastorm in the straight.

Russell, who was aboard at Cork as well, said: “I knew her better today. You have to leave her alone and let her jump herself.”

Commented Kiely: “We are very happy with that and will find another conditions hurdle. I’d say she likes soft ground and won’t be going anywhere if it is fast.” Second favourite Rockstown Boy, tracking the winner at the time, took a crashing fall at the third and broke his neck.

Mark The Man, so impressive on his debut over fences at Naas, was most disappointing in the Ascon-Rohcon Novices Chase.

The 4-7 shot jumped brilliantly, but emptied quickly once taken on by eventual winner Forget The Past coming away from the fourth last. Noel Meade’s charge was out off contention when pulled up between the final two fences by Paul Carberry.

Forget The Past produced a game performance, in a contest in which the principals literally walked home.

He was headed at the last by Leading The Way, but fought back and slogged it out better than his rival in the closing stages.

“My lad is really, really tough and a great trier”, said rider, Denis Cullen. He doubles as assistant trainer to Michael O’Brien and indicated that the Irish Grand National was the long-term target for the rising seven-year-old.

Grahams went 16-1 Forget The Past, from 25’s, for the SunAlliance Novices Chase, while they offered 20-1 Mark The Man, from 12’s.

Cashmans went a more realistic 33-1 Forget The Past for the SunAlliance, from 50-1, and took Mark The Man out of their betting. Mark The Man was found to be post-raced distressed. “He was legless when he came in”, said Noel Meade.

J P McManus, owner of Mark The Man, had better luck when Ground Ball easily landed the Powers’ Gold Label Championship Handicap Hurdle.

Parnered by the canny Conor O’Dwyer, Ground Ball made all, shooting clear soff the turn in to beat Kilbeggan Lad.

Trainer, Charlie Swan, confirmed that the Victor Chandler at Cheltenham on January 13 remains the target for Ground Ball.

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