Friendless in the market as the runner-up was backed into 4/6 favouritism, Staying Article looked held by Rivage D’Or between the last two flights but stayed on stoutly on the run-in to lead in the last few striders and score by a half-length, continuing the woe of favourite-backers on a bleak day for punters.
Trainer Edward O’Grady said: “You’d have to be pleased with that. He’s progressing nicely and going the right way. And he handled the ground better than I expected.
“We’ll probably give him one more run before he has a break until the spring. He’s in the ‘Royal Bond’ and might go there. He’s a very nice prospect and jumps well. In fact, he over-jumped the last a bit today, but quickened up well when Andrew asked him.”
Earlier, the O’Grady/McNamara alliance suffered a setback when Shot From The Hip, a dual bumper-winner which started favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, failed on his hurdling bow to the Dessie Hughes-trained Frisco Depot.
Easy to back, the 6/4 favourite came from well off the pace to have every chance from the second last flight as both he and the eventual winner tackled Cottrelsbooley, which had raced freely in a clear lead for most of the journey.
Neither winner nor runner-up was fluent at the last. But Frisco Depot, helped by a fitness edge, recovered quickly to assert his superiority, getting home by three-quarters of a length from O’Grady’s charge, which looks certain to improve significantly from the run.
Hughes said: “I’m delighted with that — he showed lots of guts and looks a really nice prospect. He jumped well, except for the last, where he was a bit flatfooted. But he roared up the hill and appreciated every yard of the two miles and three.’’
The other maiden hurdle on the card, the three-mile Kill Maiden Hurdle produced the hottest favourite of the day in the shape of the Noel Meade-trained 4/7 shot Original Option, runner-up in a recent ‘Grade 3’ in Cork.
But Original Option, with Davy Condon deputising for the injured Paul Cartberry, dropped away tamely in the closing stages, having raced keenly and made a few mistakes, eventually trailing in a well-beaten nine behind 14/1 shot Ballinahow Lady, enterprisingly ridden by John Cullen.
Ballinahow Lady, always close to the pace, displayed boundless stamina, staying on resolutely to beat Emmas Island ad giving trainer David O’Brien a welcome success.
O’Brien commented: “It’s been a good day. I won a point-to-point with the first winner (Derinlaur) before selling him on. But to win with this mare is special.
“She’s such a tough lady, is getting stronger and loves that testing ground and a real test of stamina. We’ll try to win another over hurdles with her, depending on what the handicapper thinks, before she goes chasing.”
Derinlaur stayed on well in the hands of Brian Cawley to break his duck over timber in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle to the delight of trainer Charlie Swan.
“The day he won his bumper here two years ago, I though he was a great prospect,’’ Swan said. “But’s he’s had more than his share of problems and was off the track for more than two years. Thank God his owners (Phonsie and Ann O’Brien) have plenty of patience.”
North Kerry-based John Supple saddled his second winner as a trainer when Burnswood displayed commendable tenacity to prove a shock, 20/1 winner of the Tipper Road Handicap Hurdle.
Ridden by Kerry lad Joe Holly, who was recording his first win in more than two years after a succession of injuries, Burnswood fought back in courageous style to foil longtime leader With Speed.
Another trainer to notch his second win was Dermot McLoughlin (who worked for many years for Jim Dreaper), who was successful with 20/1 shot Vics Canvas in the bumper.
Ridden by Mark O’Hare, the Old Vic gelding, having his first run since moving from Paddy Mooney’s to join McLoughlin, emerged best in a dogged battle up the hill, beating Alderwood by three-quarters of a length with favourite Raz De Maree just a short-head away third.