On a day when he got beaten a short-head on Muirhead in the earlier Limestone Lad Hurdle, Carberry brought Oscar Looby from well off the pace to foil odds-on favourite Alpha Ridge in the three-runner feature, prompting his boss Noel Mead to state: “He’s a class jockey. Did you see the way he sat out the back and let the other two beat each other up? We’ve been lucky to have somebody as good as Davy (Condon) riding for us during Paul’s ban. But Paul is class!”
Meade added: “Oscar Looby tends to hit a flat spot in his races. He takes a big heave at some stage. It happened today after the ditch, before Paul got involved. He won well and might be an Irish Grand National horse one day. The ‘Ten Up’ at Navan next month would look a suitable race for him.”
Telenor and Alpha Ridge dictated the pace and looked likely to dominate for much of the trip, before Carberry eased into contention after the third last fence. Clearly travelling best from that point, he beat the disappointing Alpha Ridge (4/6) readily by three lengths, with Telenor a distance away.
Earlier, Carberry oozed confidence on hot-pot Muirhead in the Limestone Lad Hurdle before the 4/7 shot failed by a short-head to get to grips with the Oliver Brady-trained Ebadiyan, enterprisingly and forcefully ridden by John Cullen.
In front from the sixth, Ebadiyan came under pressure approaching the second last flight as both Muirhead and De Valira loomed large. Nearing the last, it looked as if Carberry merely had to set his mount alight to take command. But, on the final climb, Ebadiyan responded courageously to Cullen’s strong driving (subsequently cautioned by the Stewards) while Muirhead, understandably failed to quicken in the glue-like ground.
Muirhead drew alongside and had every chance but failed, on the nod, to get to Ebadiyan, which was bouncing back from two very disappointing runs.
Having treated the crowd to his traditional celebration, Brady explained: “He was a very sick horse after Leopardstown. He scoped badly and had a virus. But he bounced back and his last bit of work was super.”
The Monaghan man outlined plans for the five-year-old which, significantly, was conceding 5lb. to the runner-up, “I have three options for him at Cheltenham. He could run in the ‘Champion’, the Coral Cup or the World Hurdle. We’ll have to wait and see.” Boylesports quoted Ebadiyan at 66/1 for the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.
A disappointed Noel Meade commented: “Muirhead came to win and had every chance but emptied in Paul’s hands. He ran about 20lb. below his best for some reason. He jumped great. I don’t subscribe to the belief that he doesn’t stay. He was sound after the race and I’ll have to have him scoped. I can’t explain it.”
Off the track since landing the Galway plate in midsummer, the Colin McBratney-trained Ballyholland swooped late under Ruby Walsh to foil Mr.Cracker in the Irish Racing Writers Novice Hurdle, after favourite Luska Lad crashed at the third last, giving Andrew McNamara a heavy fall and hampering the eventual runner-up.
“He showed plenty of boot,” said McBratney. “Ruby said that he didn’t think he’d quicken, but he did. This was his first ever run over hurdles and Ruby told me that they got in his way.
“It surprised me that he handled the ground so well because he’s a much better horse on good ground. He’ll have another run over hurdles. But the plan remains the same – he’s heading for Aintree. Ruby says that he’s an ideal type for the race, that he jumps and travels and it’s only when they cross the Melling Road the second time that we’ll find out if he stays.”
Case Study, the only horse Liam Burke trains for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, proved a facile winner of the opening maiden hurdle, landing a tidy on-course gamble (10/1 to 7/1).
The Davy Russell-ridden son of Flemensfirth was prominent throughout before slamming favourite Cadspeed by seven lengths, to the delight of his trainer, who said: “A lot of time and patience has gone into this horse. He won his point-to-point in Ballyragget for Pat Doyle, but has had leg trouble. Chasing will be his game, if we can keep him in one piece. It’s great to have a winner for his owner.”
A dual-winner at Limerick over Christmas, Four Chimneys completed his hat-trick for trainer Willie Austin when defying top-weight in the Cheltenham Trial Day Handicap Hurdle. Ridden by Andrew Leigh, the nine-year-old stayed on stoutly up the hill to beat Peak Raider emphatically and might reappear under a mandatory penalty at Gowran Park tomorrow.