A beaten favourite on his debut over course and distance at the end of November, the Classic Cliché gelding, owned by Trevor Hemmings, travelled strongly throughout and, with Patrick Mullins oozing confidence, there was only one likely outcome once the odds-on favourite loomed large turning for home.
In command at the furlong pole, Cranky Corner drew clear to beat Hidden Creek convincingly by six lengths.
Trainer Mullins subsequently commented: “He needed his first run, but is a fair horse and will improve again.
“He has plenty of toe and, if he continues to improve, could be part of my Cheltenham plans.”
Cranky Corner received a 33/1 quote for the Cheltenham Bumper from Cashmans, who offer a similar price about Kandari and Cockleshell Road for chosen novice events at the Festival following their maiden wins.
Runner-up to Quiscover Fontaine on his Irish debut at Gowran Park, the J P McManus-owned Kandari was backed down to 4/9 favouritism for the opening New Year Maiden Hurdle and, having come from well off the pace, had to shaken up by Paul Carberry to shake off the attentions of Gentleman Jeff by four lengths.
Kandari is trained by Noel Meade and was quoted for the ‘Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham, which seems a long way off following this workmanlike win.
Winner of his bumper on the track more than a year ago, the Edward O’Grady trained Cockleshell Road was the second of five successful favourites on the day, getting the better of market rival Themoonandsixpence decisively in the Bobbyjo Bistro Maiden Hurdle.
Ridden by Andrew McNamara, the Sinndar gelding outstayed his rivals, scoring by six lengths and receiving a 33/1 quote for the Ballymore Properties Novices Hurdle, although trainer O’Grady explained: “When we started schooling him, he was probably the worst jumped I ever trained. But he got the hang of it and is warming to the task.
“He’s relaxed and doesn’t show a lot at home. But he stays well and seems to like that soft ground. The first two could be useful and there might be more improvement in him.”
While Cockleshell Road was recording his second win at Fairyhouse, the Paddy Mooney-trained Good Fella is surely a course specialist, having recorded his third success on the track in the Happy New Year From Bamburys Beginners Chase.
Given a couple of reminders at the fifth fence, Good Fella came from the rear to tackle Sizing America at the second last fence before forging clear to triumph by eleven lengths in the hands of Martin Mooney, son of the winning trainer.
“Martin said he was never travelling,” commented the trainer. “But this horse has a big heart, keeps going and seems to like Fairyhouse. Hopefully, the handicapper won’t be too hard on him, because he’ll be going handicapping.”
The other successful favourite was Native Clan, which completed an across-the-card double for Arthur Moore in the Bambury Bookmakers Ashbourne Handicap Hurdle, following the success of Port La Chaine at Tramore.
Having taken the lead at the second last flight, Native Clan ‘missed’ the last and had to work hard to keep battling top-weight Farringdon at bay be a neck.
Trainer Moore, whose string is belatedly hitting form, said: “He’s a very genuine horse and was very unlucky at Leopardstown the last day. I’m delighted he won for Barry, who hasn’t ridden a winner for us for quite a while.”
Bad news followed for Cash, who was riding his second winner over the holiday period, as he picked up a two-day ban for using his whip with excessive frequency.
Favourite-backers suffered a rare reverse when the Tony Martin-trained Lochan Lacha stayed on late to fill the runner-up berth behind Bobsthewizard in the Fairyhouse Membership 2009 Handicap Hurdle.
Bobsthewizard is trained by Francis Flood and was ridden by in-form Mark Walsh, a combination which looked sure to complete a double when another favourite Mr. Aussie edged past Mutineer two from home in the Bamburys Bookmakers Handicap Chase.
But Mutineer, a gutsy grey trained by Dessie Hughes, responded to Paddy Flood’s driving going to the final fence and fought back to regain the initiative on the run-in to beat the flattering favourite by five and a half lengths.
“I suppose he’s a bit of a character, but he stays all day. He was unlucky the last day, when he was hampered and lost his place.”