A consistent performer on the flat for Tim Doyle, Jumbo Rio, now wearing the colours of Limerick owner Paddy Wilmot, was having his first run for Edward O’Grady and, with Andrew McNamara on board, got home narrowly from favourite Mourad in the New Year’s Eve 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle and then survived a Stewards Enquiry.
Sent to the front at the second last, Jumbo Rio, strongly supported from 4/1 to 5/2. was tackled by the Ruby Walsh-ridden Mourad at the final flight and, after a tremendous tussle, short-headed his market rival.
“He jumps well and seems to be a tough little horse,” said O’Grady, who was not getting carried away with plans for the gelded son of Captain Rio.
A short-headed also separated McNamara and Walsh in the opening Visit Panoramic Restaurant Beginners Chase, the verdict going this time to the reigning champion on board Equus Maximus, which pipped the frustrating Forest Leaves.
“I suppose he’s been a bit disappointing since his bumper days,” said in-form trainer Willie Mullins. “He stays well and will be kept at three miles, if we can manage it. He’ll go for a ‘winners of one’ with him.”
Ruby Walsh completed a double, in doubly fortuitous circumstances, in the Buy Annual Membership 2009 Handicap Chase.
Deputising for the injured Mark Walsh, Ruby made the running on the Francis Flood-trained Natural Storm, seeking a first win since April 2006.
But, approaching the final fence, Alan Crowe eased the Christy Roche-trained Wheels Up into the lead and the J P McManus-owned gelding had the race at his mercy when tacking a spectacular fall, leaving Natural Storm to beat Oscar Dubh by three lengths.
Michael Bowe declared: “I hope it’s a good omen for 2009 because 2008 was a terrible year in every sense of the word,” after Coolcashin, carrying his own colours, had turned over odds-on favourite Ebaziyan in the Punchestown Annual Membership Hurdle.
Often a front-runner in the past, Coolcashin tracked the leaders until Tom Doyle made his move two from home.
Ruby Walsh brought Ebaziyan through to track the winner on the home-turn and looked the likely winner. But, when asked to get on terms, the grey, which has triumphed only once since his ‘Supreme Novices’ victory at Cheltenham in 2006, had little to offer and was beaten three lengths.
Michael Bowe, who confirmed the retirement of classy mare Sweet Kiln, commented: “We’ve always thought that he was a nice horse. But he just can’t keep up with the top hurdlers. So today’s race suited him well, although he had to give weight away. He’s tough and stays. I’ll try to find another one of these for him. He jumps well and will go chasing eventually.”
Colm Murphy and Matt O’Connor are enjoying a rich vein of form, highlighted by Big Zeb’s Grade 1 win at Leopardstown, and struck again when Kennel Bridge made a successful handicap debut in the Buy Your Tickets On Line Handicap Hurdle.
O’Connor, a stylish rider growing in confidence, produced the Classic Cliche gelding with a decisive challenge just when See U Bob and In The Haven looked set to fight out the finish. Soon in command, Kennel Bridge stretched clear and kept the persistent Imaalhall at bay.