Walsh edges closer to century

RUBY WALSH edged closer to the century mark of winners here at home when taking his tally for the season to 94 with a treble at Thurles yesterday aboard Financial Reward, Nay and Wickford.

Financial Reward was best for money in the Heineken W T O'Grady Memorial Hurdle, 9-10 from 5-4, and never gave his supporters any cause for concern. He travelled sweetly throughout, in the slipstream of Celtic Warrior. Walsh eased his charge ahead coming away from the second last and Financial Reward quickened nicely to score by eight lengths.

Trainer, Willie Mullins, said: “He wore a tongue-tie because some of the jockeys who have ridden him have reported that he gurgled, but I'm not convinced he needs it.

“We will try and find another winners' race. He will be entered for the Triumph Hurdle, but I'd imagine Lounaos will be hard to beat in that contest.”

Mullins and Walsh combined to land the Cashel Maiden Hurdle with Nay, who scored with plenty in hand.

Very free on the way to the start, he was allowed bowl along over the second flight. The Ragmar gelding made the rest and Walsh didn't have to be in any way hard on him to easily beat In Debted Friend's.

Said Mullins: “He disappointed me last season, but has had a wind operation and it seems to have worked.

“He will have a few more runs over hurdles, but I am looking forward to him going over fences next season.”'

Wickford, the middle leg of the Walsh success-story, outstayed his only serious rival, Tex Morgan, in the INH Stallion Owners' EBF Novice Hurdle.

It was a contest in which a lot of the interest was lost after Noel Meade's highly-regarded Bridge Run defected due to an infection.

Walsh took Colm Murphy's charge straight into the lead and kept him right up to his work through the final mile. Tex Morgan appeared to be travelling better on the last circuit, but a slight error three out didn't help and Wickford was soon striding clear.

“He's alright, wasn't doing a stroke, but is as tough as nails”, said Walsh.

Said Murphy: “He will go for another novice hurdle. He will be stepped up to a Graded race to see if we can get black type.

“He's improved with every run and was like a mare in foal going round there. We can't get the belly off him.”

Walsh was desperately unlucky not to start the day with another winner when Our Ben crashed out of the Phil Sweeney Memorial Chase, odds-on punters burning their fingers big-time.

He was a strong order from 4-6 to 4-7, 8-11 was available in the morning, and was some six lengths clear going to the last. But he made no attempt to get to the other side, leaving Carrigeen Kalmia to easily beat the front-running Public Reaction.

Carrigeen Kalmia was partnered by Liz Lalor and is in the care of her father, Dick. Commented trainer-Lalor: “That's a very nice surprise. She will probably now go for the Leopardstown Chase.”

The Charles Byrnes-trained Merchent Paddy relieved the layers of plenty of dosh when easily taking the Bumper.

Opening offers of 5-2 and 9-4 soon found favour and he hardened all the way to 11-8. Confidently handled by Robbie McNamara, Merchent Paddy powered ahead over a furlong down to beat Golden Blossom by four and a half lengths. For McNamara it was a 17th success on the track.

“He will go back hurdling now and jump a fence next season”, said Byrnes.

Deskelly Interiors stayed on from the last to take the opening moderate handicap chase for the Adrian McGuinness yard. Unlucky horse of the contest was runner-up Upton Gem, who blundered badly four out when travelling well in front.

Moses McCabe, without a winner since December 2005, enjoyed a turn when Robbie Moran guided Arkmore Radar to victory in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

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