Irish Invader reaps reward as favourite flops

PUNTERS had a real shock to the system, and it came early as well, in yesterday’s featured Grade 3 Phil Sweeney Memorial Chase at Thurles.

Finger Onthe Pulse, making a quick reappearance after finishing third behind Schindlers Hunt at Leopardstown on Sunday, was backed from 5-6 to 4-6, but blundered and unseated Paddy Flood at the first.

Ruby Walsh set off to make the running on market-rival Irish Invader and it was essentially plain sailing after the departure of the favourite.

The persistent Holly Tree was shaken off from three out and it was left to mistake-prone Carrigeeen King to take a remote second spot.

Trainer, Willie Mullins, reported: “We did what we wanted to do and made it a searching gallop. He doesn’t seem to have too many gears and likes to go flat out from the start.”

Flood, however, wasted no time getting back on track when guiding Dessie Hughes’ Flag Of Honour to victory in the Heineken W T O’Grady Memorial Hurdle.

Hughes’ horses continue in terrific shape and this Alhaarth gelding was all the rage in the ring, 9-10 from 7-4.

Flood sent him on over the third last, but had to keep Flag Of Honour right up his work to hold No One Tells Me by a length and a quarter.

Commented Flood: “He’s a good horse and a super jumper and that wasn’t a bad effort to give away the weight (12lbs) to the second.”

Hughes, currently on a break in Barbados, missed seeing his 25-1 shot Baffin Island spring a real surprise in the Cashel Maiden Hurdle.

In doing so, he upset a tasty gamble on Tom Mullins’ Fosters Cross. Taken as high as 9-1 and 8-1 in the morning, he tumbled down from 5-1 to 5-2 on track.

Fosters Cross made a lot of the running and the touch appeared a distinct possibility when he was still in front jumping the final flight.

But Roger Loughran was now getting a real tune from the ex-poiner, Baffin Island, and he swept past on the run-in.

Mouse Morris’s Browns Baily, clearly on the upgrade, ran out a decisive winner of the INH Stallion Owners’ EBF Novice Hurdle.

Runner-up behind Weapons Amnesty at Limerick previously, Browns Baily shot on off the home turn and was soon in control for Niall Madden.

Said Morris: “He might go to the rising ground (Cheltenham) now for the three miler (Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle) and won’t run in the meantime. He will be a far better horse on a better surface.”

Jimmy Mangan’s Well Covered, owned by JP McManus, was an early casualty, breaking his neck in the process.

Enda Bolger's easy Limerick winner, My Lord Oscar, was all the rage in the opening handicap chase, evens from 6-4. He proved very disappointing, however, making a couple of blunders and finding little for Nina Carberry pressure through the final half mile.

Victory went to the Davy Russell-partnered Bella Mana Mou, who was poised to take over from Inoma James when that one departed two out, the last fence being omitted.

Charming Hills stayed on doggedly for Steven Grey to beat Another Notice in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

It came as a pleasant surprise to trainer John O’Shea, who said: “My gallops were frozen solid last week and he missed three days work.

“I thought he might be undercooked, but he jumps well and will probably go straight over fences now.”

Marlay Park, owned and ridden by Barry Connell and trained by Mags Mullins, ran away with the Bumper.

Connell waited out the back, before pouncing off the home turn and Marlay Park did the rest, bounding clear to score by 18 lengths.

Said Mullins: “He jumps well, but we will see what Barry wants to do, he might want to ride him in another Bumper. This is the first winner I’ve had for Barry, he’s great for the game.”

lThe chases scheduled for Thurles on Thursday have been abandoned due to deteriorating ground conditions. Other races will be divided to form a six-race programme.

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