It was the call for which Martin was desperately waiting. His in-form Dun Doire had failed to get into the contest and was listed as first reserve.
Dun Doire, the medium of some major wagers, 7-2 to 9-4, roared home a length and a half clear of front-running Coljon.
“You don’t wish anything bad for a man’s horse, but for Dun Doire to get in was brilliant for me,” said an ecstatic Martin. “I think I will have to buy John a decent drink.”
It was a tremendous training performance by the canny Martin. Dun Doire came into the contest on the back of four victories in-a-row and, by my reckoning, had gone up a whopping 36lbs.
But the essence of a top man is to have his charges sweet and improving and when you keep beating the handicapper then clearly you have to be doing most things right.
Martin, however, had a hugely talented ally in Paul Carberry. Even by his amazingly high standards this was a magnificent piece of riding.
He hunted Dun Doire round at the back, as Coljon took the field along. It was only into the final mile that Carberry began to edge his partner into the contest.
Dun Doire ranged right up on the heels of the leaders turning in and Carberry then launched a ferocious challenge between the last two fences.
It was clear the winner only had to pop the last and the major prize was his. But he made little effort to get across the obstacle properly.
Dun Doire literally halved the fence, but the inimitable Carberry sat tight. Dun Doire stayed on his feet and the jockey powered him away on the flat to score convincingly in the end.
Coljon never wilted and was a clear second with A New Story doing his best work at the end for third, but simply finding this a less than satisfactory test of stamina.
“I always felt Paul was holding on to a little,” said a relieved Martin. “You never question Carberry, he’s exceptional and never panics, not even at the last.
“This horse has now won seven races for us and, hopefully, will win a few more. We will give him a break now, but he bounces well out of his races.
“He has turned inside out. We will take him home and see how he is before making any plans. The plan at the start of the season was the four mile at Cheltenham. He will be entered in that and in three mile handicaps as well.”
Commented Carberry: “He jumped well bar the last. He’s a funny horse. He doesn’t appear to be going well, but really picks up when you go for him.”
it was a first win in the Thyestes for Carberry and Martin .
Emotional Moment, with no Solerina with which to cope compared to Leopardstown previously, was much too good for his rivals in the Grade Three Alo Duffin Memorial Galmoy Hurdle.
He was always a shade odds-on in the ring, but that turned out to be terrific value, after Barry Geraghty made all the running on Tom Taaffe’s charge.
Market rival Strangely Brown stalked the winner for much of the journey, but came under pressure coming away from the third last and a mistake at the next by Emotional Moment made no difference.
“I am thrilled,” said Taaffe. “I don’t think Leopardstown really suits him, it is too easy, this is a more rugged track and brings his stamina into play.
“The obvious race now is the Boyne Hurdle at Navan. But the way horses are falling by the wayside, I will have to think seriously about Cheltenham.
“You have no business going there unless you are fresh. He will either go straight for the Ladbrokes’ World Hurdle, or else head to Navan and miss Cheltenham.”
Philip Fenton’s Sher Beau stepped up on his debut over fences at Limerick with a smooth success in the Irish Stallion Farms’ EBF Novice Chase.
He was galloping over his rivals from a long way out for Andrew McNamara and the pilot was able to sit motionless all the way up the straight to beat Public Reaction by ten lengths.
“I was very pleased with him at Limerick and he was pretty impressive today,” reported Fenton. “He’s had a few mishaps along the way, but we’ve had a clear run since Christmas. The PJ Moriarty at Leopardstown (February 12) could be next, but may come too soon. He likes a break between races.”
Dessie Hughes’ First Row, well beaten behind Marhaba Million at Punchestown, gave that winner a big boost when taking the PJ Foley Memorial Maiden Hurdle.
Always on the pace for Niki O’Shea, he forged ahead early in the straight and was always holding the late rush of the promising Cosmic String.
“He will probably run next at Leopardstown on February 12 (Cashmans Hurdle), ” said Hughes.
Gamble of the contest was Frances Crowley’s Noened, taken from 3-1 to 2-1. He raced near the front as well, but began to struggle well before the home turn.
Grahams gave First Row a 20-1 quote for Cheltenham’s Triumph Hurdle, but Cashmans were more realistic at 33-1.
Noel Meade’s No Sound left some moderate efforts solidly behind when taking the Melville Developers Handicap Hurdle.
Paul Carberry, initiating a double, had her in front two out and didn’t have to be in any way hard on the mare to beat fast-finishing Rathkenny by two lengths.
Leading Run and Jason McKeown shot away early in the straight to win the Bumper in a canter and complete a double for Meade.
Well Tutored, in front going to the second last, survived a bad mistake at the final fence and still won the Ashkalani At Coolamurry Stud Carey’s Cup Cottage Handicap Chase with a lot in hand.
Finally, it was a case of records all round at the Kilkenny track. The attendance was a modern day record, 8,500, while the tote was a course record at €307,655, way up on the previous best of €246,362. The layers held a massive €1,468,093, another record for the course.