Ball on a roll after Project fall

GROUND BALL landed the featured Horse and Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Thurles yesterday in a contest which produced more than its fair share of spills.

First to depart was Vic Ville on the bend after the stands and he brought down Boleyknowsbest.

Conor O’Dwyer allowed Ground Ball stride on with a circuit to cover and from the third last Lissbonney Project emerged as the only danger.

The pair raced down to the second last locked together, with Lissbonney Project appearing to be travelling the stronger.

There was little to choose between them rising to the flight, but Lissbonney Project took a crashing fall and Ground Ball was able to come home in his own time, 25 lengths clear of Macs Gildoran.

“It is hard to say whether I would have won”, said O’Dwyer. “I was happy and wouldn’t have swapped my horse.

“At the same time I wasn’t too disappointed to see the other one disappearing.” Davy Russell rode Lissbonney Project and, in contrast to O’Dwyer, had no doubt about the likely outcome: “I would have won, my horse would have picked up.”

Ground Ball is trained by Charlie Swan, who commented: “You need luck in this game. It is possible he could go to Cheltenham on January 29 for the Victor Chandler.”

Swan was on the mark again when Ballyguider Bridge took the Moycarkey Maiden Hurdle.

She has disappointed more often than not in the past, but Ruby Walsh got a real tune from her, powering ahead going to the fourth from home to easily beat Coppet.

“She’s well bred and deserved that, after knocking on the door for a while”, said Swan. “I always thought she wanted better ground.”

Point-to-point rider, James Sheehan, took out a licence to train two weeks ago and saddled his first winner, it was his second runner, when Jay Lo sprang a 33-1 shock in the INH Stallion Farms’ EBF Maiden Hurdle.

In-form Barry Cash sent her to the front between the last two flights to beat Bybloxe, with favourite, He’s My Man, dropping away dramatically in the straight after flattering for most of the journey.

Sheehan, who has ridden 99 winner in points, is based at Dungourney, Co Cork and has nine horses in his care.

He said: “That’s a pleasant surprise. She will be a lovely mare for chasing and will do so sooner rather than later.”

Jay Lo hadn’t run since winning in a point at Bartlemy two years earlier.

The Davy Fitzgerald trained Pearly Jack, contesting his first handicap, easily landed the Gift Horse Gallery Horse and Jockey Hotel Chase.

Partnered by amateur, Mikey O’Connor, Pearly Jack, the well-backed 4-1 favourite, led at the last to beat the flattering Master Badsworth by an easy six lengths.

“He will head for Limerick now for another handicap and, hopefully, will go on from here”, said Fitzgeralod.

For 23 year-old-Connor, who put up 3lbs overweight, it was a seventh success.

Paddy Flood, great value for his claim, gave Dishy a dashing drive to land the Molony Cup Handicap Chase. The Dick Lalor trained mare edged on going to the third last and bounded up the straight to beat Berkley cosily.

“She’s a big, strong mare, but nothing has gone right for her”, reported Lalor. “She got a good positive ride from Paddy.”

Barry Geraghty, who took a fall from Count Rossini, was stood down for the rest of the day with bruising.

Colm Murphy’s team is in fine shape and his Allez Petit Luis completed a three-timer in the Holy Cross Novice Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden by Alan Donoghue, the six-year-old had his task eased when Culrua Mist fell at the last, but would probably have scored in any case. Allez Petit Luis will now reappear at Christmas. Eoin Kelly, who rode Culrua Mist, broke his collar-bone.

Sean Treacy’s Scolboa Rainbow, runner-up on this track last month on his debut, made no mistake in the Bumper.

He streaked clear at the furlong pole for Aidan Fitzgerald to score by an impressive 13 lengths.

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