Russell has enjoyed a tremendous run in recent weeks and was bringing his seasonal tally to 91, seventeen behind currently injured champion Ruby Walsh as the 2009-2010 season reaches its climax at Punchestown next week.
Dessie Hughes continued his rich vein of form with horses owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud when Instinctive, patiently handled by Russell, came through to beat Duartin and Ikidunot in the Freshford Handicap Hurdle.
The winning trainer commented: “He’s won’t do any more this season and I hope to make a chaser out of him. He likes good ground and he’ll go out early and come back early, over fences, in September or October.”
Meadows Thyne, trained by Tony Martin for the Ultimate Dream Syndicate, was the third leg of Russell’s treble, belatedly opening his account, at the age of nine, in the Thomastown Handicap Hurdle.
Having come from well off the pace, Meadows Tyne had to work hard to see off Caffeine Craze on the run-in, prompting Martin to explain: “He was always a right little horse. But he has been plagued by injuries and problems. We had his wind done last year, because he just couldn’t operate in heavy ground. He might run again soon.”
Russell was seen at his strongest on board the Brian Hamilton-trained Playboy Luke, which clearly appreciated the step-up to three miles in the Dungarvan Maiden Hurdle.
“We wanted to get a win over hurdles under his belt, even this late in the season, because he’s going chasing now. He jumps fences very well,” commented the successful trainer.
Russell was subsequently banned for one raceday, for using his whip with excessive frequency and not allowing his mount time to respond.
Playboy Luke’s battling victory over stable-companions Glenlo Abbey (Patrick Mullins) and Angus House (Paul Townend) denied trainer Willie Mullins a treble and both riders a double as, earlier, Cadspeed and Pozyc had triumphed for the champion trainer.
Having opened his account over hurdles at Leoparadstown last month, Cadspeed made all under Patrick Mullins to beat favourite Gates Of Rome in the opening Mullinavat Novice Hurdle.
In contrast to the runner-up, Cadspeed jumped fluently and had Davy Russell’s mount in trouble turning for home before scoring by four lengths, with eye-catching newcomer Datokepe staying on to be third.
Willie Mullins said: “It’s the first time he’s won without ‘heavy’ in the going description. Punchestown will come a bit soon for him but, if there’s some cut in the ground, he might run again in May. But he’ll have a break then and will go chasing. He jumps very efficiently and making more use of him has helped.”
Paul Townend gave even-money favourite Pozyc a confident ride before producing him late to foil Take A Stroll in the Inistioge Maiden Hurdle.
The winner, one of only two four-year-olds in the field, was receiving 11lb. from the runner-up and his trainer explained: “He has made nice progress since his run in Clonmel but Paul says he’s still very green, even when he schooled him this morning. That’s why he didn’t want to hit the front too soon out there.
“This is a bit close to Punchestown, so he won’t go there. We’ll mix it with him over the summer, over hurdles and on the flat — he’s still a maiden on the flat. He’ll probably turn up at a few of the festivals.”
John ‘Shark’ Hanlon declared: “We lost a very good horse last week (when Western Leader was retired after sustaining a serious injury in Aintree), but this fellow might replace him,” after Hidden Cyclone, ridden by Brian Hayes, had made a winning debut in the bumper.
Despite running freely throughout, the five-year-old stayed on strongly to beat Ravensbury and favourite Kid Curry, to the delight of Hanlon, who added: “He’s a very good horse. The Mees (his owners) like Galway so we’ll give him a break and aim him at a winners’ bumper there.”
Carlowsantana proved a facile winner of the Goresbridge Handicap Hurdle, recording his second win since joining Kilcock, County Kildare-based Stephen Nolan.
Robbie Molloy, described by the trainer as “an under-rated rider who doesn’t get the opportunities he deserves”, oozed confidence on the 7/2 favourite, producing him to master front-running Luca Brasi between the last two flights. Nolan said: “That was brilliant, winning two races back-to-back with him. He has improved a lot since I got him a year ago, and, depending on the handicapper, he might win another over hurdles.”