Hill on top in farcical affair

EXCITING novices Sweeps Hill and Some Present were involved in a farcical, cat-and-mouse battle for the four-runner Tote Sports Lounge Novice Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday.

Victory went to the John Kiely-trained Sweeps Hill, ridden for J P McManus by his retained jockey Tony McCoy. But the four-runner affair proved unsatisfactory.

Davy Russell, on 4/5 favourite Some Present, opted to dictate the pace. But his mount was hesitant at the first before virtually stalling and apparently looking for a way out at the second.

He was quickly joined by the McCoy ridden Sweeps Hill and the pace dropped to little more than a walk and then a hack canter, until the tempo increased going to the second last flight.

The race developed into a sprint and, after Some Present threatened to take over after the final flight, it was Sweeps Hill which quickened best to triumph by three-quarters of a length, with 50/1 shot Prince Of Fire only a length away third.

Winning trainer John Kiely said: “It wasn’t a satisfactory race and you wouldn’t know what to make of it. But he’s a lovely horse and he’s going the right way. He was lucky not to be carried out at the second and it wasn’t the plan to be in front. He landed a bit steep at the last, but quickened up well.”

Kiely was non-committal about immediate plans for Sweeps Hill, a New Zealand-bred son of Montjeu. But he hinted that the Grade 1 ‘Royal Bond’ at Fairyhouse might be his next outing.

Owner J P McManus was expected to complete a double when Grade 1 winning hurdler Jered made his chasing debut in the Dobbins Panormaic Restaurant Beginners Chase.

But the Tony McCoy-ridden 8/11 shot had to settle for the runner-up berth behind all-the-way winner Major Finnegan, which showed no ill effects from unseating Davy Russell on the way to the start and running loose.

Having jumped well, Major Finnegan held the late effort of Jered by three quarters of a length, to the delight of trainer Liam Burke. “Not bad for a horse that ran a race before the start ! Maybe it took the buzz out of him and settled him down a bit.”

Burke added: “We’ve always though a lot of this fellow. He won his point-to-point and two novice hurdles but he had leg trouble and was off for two years. As you saw, jumping is his strong point and he’ll, hopefully, improve from today. We’ll stick to two miles with him, because I’m not sure he’d get much further in soft ground.”

The meeting’s other two odds-on favourites, Shinrock Paddy and For Bill, enjoyed better luck, but gave their supporters more than a few anxious moments.

Winner of two bumpers and eighth behind Dunguib in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, Shinrock Paddy justified 1/2 favouritism on his hurdling debut in the Punchestown Event Centre Maiden Hurdle.

Barry Connell’s five-year-old made virtually all under Alain Cawley and, when challenged by Rick and Gallant Light on the run-in responded to score by a half-length, to the relief of winning trainer Paul Nolan’s brother and assistant James, who commented: “It’s great to get off the thirteen winner mark. I was beginning to wonder after Alpha Ridge and Clan Tara got beaten in the last few days.”

The biggest cheer of the day greeted the announcement of the judge’s deliberations after a thrilling finish to the Thoroughbred County Mares Flat race, as octogenarian Killarney owner Donie Sheahan and his band of followers celebrated confirmation that odds-on favourite For Bill had prevailed, by the narrowest possible margin, over Revelling.

Unsuited by the muddling pace in what developed into a sprint, For Bill responded to strong driving by Mikey O’Connor (subsequently severely cautioned by the Stewards over his whip-use) to land the spoils, landing an on-course gamble from 11/10 to 4/6 (2./1 in the morning).

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