The Limerick rider seized the initiative at the second last on the well-backed Equation (9/2 to 11/4) in the opening June 29th At Sligo Mares Maiden Hurdle, the Lahib mare shooting clear on the home-turn before being kept up to her work to hold favourite Royal Crew by a half-length.
Equation was bred by her trainer Peter Casey, who was represented by his son Francis: “I suppose she deserved her turn. She ran well in Ballinrobe and Andy gave her a great ride. I suppose she’ll go back handicapping.”
Ironically, Fearnwood Girl, having her first run since moving from Casey’s to join Tom McCourt, completed McNamara’s double in the Sligo Racecourse Maiden Hurdle, from which likely favourite Northern Rocker was a notable, late withdrawal.
Close to the pace throughout, even-money favourite Fearnwood Girl jumped into the lead at the second last flight and, soon clear, was driven out by McNamara to score by three lengths from Mannin Beach.
McCourt explained: “She hasn’t been in the yard long. The Caseys told me she was slow and she doesn’t show a lot at home. She just keeps galloping and should have no problem staying two and a half miles. We’ll see what the handicapper does before making plans.”
It was a mixed night for Carrigtwohill-based Terence O’Brien, who saddled two beaten favourites, Royal Crew and Viaduct Bud, but was successful with the Paul Townend-ridden favourite Ballyadam Buck in the firstname.lastname@example.org Maiden Hurdle.
The six-year-old, gaining compensation for a recent defeat at Ballinrobe, dictated the pace and stretched clears between the last two flights to slam Dilshaan’s Prize by ten lengths.
O’Brien said: “He cost plenty of money and has been pretty disappointing. He had a problem with his tonsils and was operated on by Ger Kelly in Fethard. After that, our expectations weren’t very high. But he’s been running well and, after Ballinrobe, deserved a change of luck. The extra trip helped and I’m sure two and a half miles wouldn’t pose a problem for him.”
The J P McManus-owned Dafarabad triumphed for the father and son Madden combination in the Corner House Bar Ballymote Handicap Hurdle.
Ridden by Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden for his father and namesake, better known as ‘Boots’, Dafarabad edged ahead before the final flight before being headed and rallied bravely under strong driving to put his head in front again close home and beat Go On Ya Boya by a neck.
“He’s getting a bit old but he’s a tough old devil,” said the winning trainer. “I was surprised by the way he battled and he needed a strong ride from Niall. Although he hasn’t run for six months, I knew he was in good order coming here. We’ll mix it with him, hurdles and flat, over the summer.”
Novel Investment, withdrawn at Punchestown on Tuesday due to fast ground, landed a tidy gamble for County Clare handler John Brassil in the Harry’s Bar Sligo Handicap Hurdle.
Backed from 11/2 to 7/2 favouritism, the top-weight shot clear after the second last flight to score convincingly from West Route, providing rider Tom Doyle with his first win since sustaining a shoulder injury at Ballinrobe two weeks ago. Doyle resumed race-riding at Punchestown on Tuesday and gave this nine-year-old a confident ride.
The shock win of 25/1 Mighty Whitie provided locally-born amateur Derek Fox (who works for John Carr) and trainer Noel Kelly, who is based in Draperstown, County Derry, with their first racecourse success.
The free-running Sesaro gelding, in the colours of the trainer’s mother Christina, made every yard of the running and held the challenge of Craig Lea (Nina Carberry) by a neck.
Similar front-running tactics were employed successfully in the second bumper as the Brian Hamilton-trained Grace N Favour made all to beat Kings Equity in the countysligo.com Mares Flat Race.
* Davy Condon was removed to nearby Sligo Regional Hospital for observation following a crashing fall from Imperial Belle at the second flight in the Corner House Bar Ballymote Handicap Hurdle.