Red Rock Canyon finally gets off the mark

TWENTY-ONE race maiden Red Rock Canyon finally opened his account when justifying odds-on favouritism in the Tote Jackpot Races 3 To 6 Maiden at Roscommon last night.

A first ride back after suspension for stable-jockey Johnny Murtagh, the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old coped adequately with the soft ground to see off the flattering Miss Chaparral by a length, having edged ahead before the home-turn.

Red Rock Canyon, narrowly beaten by the classy Teofilo on his debut as a two-year-old, has served as a lead-horse and pacemaker in Ballydoyle for most of a career which included creditable thirds behind stable-companions Duke Of Marmalade and Dylan Thomas in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes respectively.

Beaten at 1/2 last time at Tipperary, the 103-rated son of Rock Of Gibraltar and dual classic-winner Imagine, appeared to relish the return to his optimum trip of ten furlongs as he belatedly got off the mark, to the relief of everyone in Ballydoyle.

Kevin Prendergast is enjoying a tremendous season with his two-year-olds and recorded his twelfth success in that sphere when Musical Rain, disappointing after a tardy start at Fairyhouse last week, bounced back to land the opening Irish Stallion Farms Auction Maiden.

The Val Royal filly, placed twice from four previous starts, proved too strong for her thirteen rivals in the demanding ground thanks, at least partly, to her burden of just 7-13, helped by the 7lb. claim of apprentice Sam James, who was recording his first win of the season and the fourth of his career, having partnered Almass to victories at Gowran Park, Galway and the Curragh last summer.

Media Queen, the best mare on the point-to-point circuit last season, made a successful return to hurdling when landing the Tote Phone Bet 1850 238 669 Handicap Hurdle under an inspired ride from Davy Russell.

Recording her second hurdle win, having scored at Limerick almost three years ago, the eight-year-old came with a withering late rattle to get up close home and pip the Ruby Walsh-ridden and gambled-on Hopeful Venture (13/2 to 4/1) by the minimum margin in a finish which left a smile on the handicapper’s face, with a length covering the first five home.

The winner and runner-up jumped the last flight in sixth and seventh places respectively.

Media Queen, a half-sister to Rathmore Castle, is now trained by Donie Hassett for Kilworth, County Cork owner Charlie Moore, and was a morning gamble (from 4/1 with Paddy Power) but easy-to-back on track, easing from 5/2 to 7/2, amid fears that she would struggle over the minimum trip. And it was her stamina which won the day, prompting trainer Hassett to plan running her over a minimum of two and a half miles in the future.

Davy Russell had a more straight-forward task when completing a fine double on the well-backed, Shane Donohoe-trained Fly The Fairway in the Bet On-Course With Tote Maiden Hurdle.

Russell brought the 11/8 favourite with a smooth challenge to master Vickys Thyne at the second last flight before drawing clear, surviving an untidy jump at the final obstacle and coasting home a comfortable six lengths winner.

A winning pointer, Fly The Fairway carries the familiar colours of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud. Trainer Donohoe said: “It probably wasn’t a strong race but I’m delighjted he won at last. Our patience has been rewarded and we won’t be hanging around with him. He’ll go straight over fences now.”

John Carr, successful with Caughtontheriver at Sligo on Sunday, had further cause for celebration when Young Lochinvar, bought for €10,000 at Tattersalls almost two years ago to go hurdling, landed the Tote Placepot Races 1 to 6 Handicap in the hands of Colm O’Donoghue.

In front soon after the two-furlong pole, the five-year-old Pivotal gelding battled well in the testing ground to beat Fast Lightning by two and a half lengths, prompting Carr to explain: “He’s had has his share of back problems, but seems to have put them behind him. He handled the ground and won well and will probably run again in the apprentice handicap at Leopardstown on Thursday. He’ll be off to Galway then.”

Ian McCarthy, who rode Carr’s winner at Sligo on Sunday, was also on the mark again when Ballygill Gale scored a smooth success in the three mile Handicap Hurdle, having the measure of What’s New when the runner-up fluffed the last obstacle.

The five-year-old Sheer Danzig gelding is owned by Galway man Martin Donnellan and trained by Adrian Sexton, savouring his first win since last November and commenting: “This horse has shown ability since we got him. But all of my horses have been wrong. It’s a relief to be back in the winner’s enclosure. His owner is from Galway so he’ll be going to Ballybrit next.”

In the bumper, Pauline Ryan brought the Kahyasi filly Tir Na gCapall with a strong late surge to foil fellow debutante Got Options, ridden for Colm Murphy by Laura Hourigan, close home.

The 6/1 shot, which got home by a half-length, was continuing the rich vein of form being enjoyed by Curragh trainer Dessie Hughes.

* Officials at Uttoxeter were forced to abandon last night’s meeting without a race being run after heavy rain caused problems with the crossings on the track and for the ambulances on the course.

Intensive work on the crossings looked set to pay dividends after an official 6.45pm inspection – some five minutes before the first race was due to start.

It was announced the opener would be delayed by 30 minutes and the skies cleared to leave bright sunshine, but then an ambulance got stuck in the mud, leading to an eventual abandonment nearly an hour after the original start time of 6.50pm.

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