And while Robert Tyner makes plans for Footy Facts, Dessie Hughes admitted that this defeat was probably Hardy Eustace’s last run, explaining: “I have to discuss things with Lar (owner Lar Byrne). But I think it’s safe to say that this was his last run.”
Speaking about the gelding, which turns 13 today, Hughes added: “I was very fortunate to have a horse like him and lucky to find Conor O’Dwyer to ride him, It was a match made in heaven. I doubt if I’ll ever have another horse like him.”
Winner of seven Grade 1 races, Hardy Eustace achieved back-to-back victories in the Champion Hurdle in 2004-’05, having won the Sun Alliance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2003. He recorded his last win when landing the Maplewood Developments Hurdle at Punchestown more than a year ago.
Clearly unsuited by the testing ground, Hardy Eustace was clearly labouring three from home but, to his credit, he plugged on to fill the runner-up spot, beaten thirteen lengths by the impressive Footy Facts, ridden by Philip Enright.
Winning trainer Tyner commented: “We thought Hardy Eustace would go on and we planned to take him on from the third last. Instead, Philip got a good lead from King Of Ardcarne and, when he made his move, the horse picked up really well. Philip said he gave him the best feel he’s given since he was a young horse. We’re heading for the Thyestes now.”
Also heading for the Thyestes on January 21 is the Willie Mullins-trained Beroni, which successfully reverted to hurdling in the Buy Your Tickets On Line Handicap Hurdle, making all under Paul Townend to justify 9/10 favouritism.
Although not totally fluent at some of his hurdles, Beroni was in command from the second last flight and stayed on to beat Ruby Walsh’s mount Farringdon by four and a half lengths.
Mullins said: “You’d have to be happy with that. He outstayed them and, while I’ll have to weight up all the options for him, we’ll definitely have a look at the Thyestes for him.”
Beroni was the second leg of a double for Paul Townend, successful earlier with The Dew At Night, initiated a double for his trainer Charles Byrnes in the Buy Annual Membership 2010 Handicap Chase.
Carrying the colours of the Morning Dew Racing Syndicate, The Dew At Night kept market-rival Whosaidso at bay, prompting his trainer to comment: “He deserved that after falling in Thurles and jumped well today. He has plenty of ability, but doesn’t always show it. He’s a bit of a monkey at times. We’ll probably mix it with him.”
Byrnes’ double was completed in unlikely fashion when hurdling debutant Pittoni, formerly trained by John Oxx and friendless in the market, came from an apparently impossible position turning for home and swooped late to pip Soldier Bay in the Celebrate New Year’s Eve At Punchestown 3-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle.
Pittoni was partnered by Brian Byrnes and provided Limerick owner Paddy Wilmot with back-to-back wins in the race, following the controversial victory of Jumbo Rio twelve months ago.
The successful trainer said: “He’s a nice horse and we knew he’d stay. He’ll go for a ‘winners of one’ somewhere now.”
Undoubtedly the most impressive winner of the day was the John Kiely-trained Araucaria, which bolted up by no less than twenty-four lengths from My Cool Lady in the ITBA Fillies Scheme Bonus Pro-Am Flat Race.
Ridden by David Kiely (no relation of the trainer), the Accordion mare, a strong 11/10 favourite, got a dream run on the inside to lead before the straight and, briefly pressed by Perfectly Composed, quickly forged clear for an impressive win.