Step up in trip a big help to First Impressions

VICTORY in the Tote Jackpot Maiden Hurdle at Naas yesterday, in which Ruby Walsh was lucky to walk away from a nasty fall (see page 25), went to longshot First Impressions, ridden by Tim Carroll and trained by Mick Mulvany.

Mulvany commented: “I expected more from the horse in the first (Lucky Beguine, which finished second) than this fellow. But I knew he had improved a lot from his last run.

“The step-up in trip was a big help to him. He’s nicely-related, his dam is from the family of Florida Pearl so he’s bred to be a three-mile chaser. He’ll step-up further in trip as the ground dries out and, hopefully, he’s a very nice chasing prospect.”

The Dessie Hughes-trained Canaly followed his maiden win at Fairyhouse in January when landing the six-runner Naas Market Re-opening Next Sunday Hurdle in the colours of Michael Moore.

After favourite Sweeney Tunes dictated the pace, despite untidy jumping, Paddy Flood produced Canaly to challenge turning for home and, although briefly threatened by runner-up Henro Boy early on the run-in, the six-year-old Bob Back gelding soon forged ahead to triumph by two lengths.

“He a real Bob Back and loves that better ground,” commented trainer Hughes. “It was a good performance by a nice horse and we’ll try to find something for him at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

Ballyholland, having his first run since being pulled up in the John Smiths Grand National eleven months ago, made a pleasing return, finish fourth, beaten less than eleven lengths by the winner and remains on course for a return to Aintree, this time for the ‘Topham’.

Michael Hourigan declared, “It’s nice for Adrian (Heskin) and myself to be going across (to Cheltenham) with a winner. They were hard enough to come by all year,” after 20/1 shot False Messenger held the late flourish of Noel Browne in the Tote Daily Double Handicap Hurdle.

In command at the second last, the mare, owned by the Fools On Stools Syndicate, tired on the run-in but held the runner-up by three-quarters of a length. Hourigan added: “She’s won four now — a ‘point’, a bumper and two over hurdles. But she’s been codding us a bit lately and the blinkers were a big help to her today. It’s great for Adrian, a good boost before he heads for Cheltenham.”

The bumper produced a result for the bookies as Charles Byrnes’ Shrapnel, backed from 3/1 to 7/4, was beaten a head by 16/1 shot Pride Of The Artic, trained by Peter Fahey for his brother Brendan and ridden by their nephew James.

* The connections of Mountain Close, unplaced in the opening maiden hurdle, incurred the wrath of the Stewards under the ‘running and riding’ rules, the Stewards considering that the gelding was not allowed run on his merits.

Trainer Mark Michael McNiff (not present) was fined €2,000. Jockey Pat Kennedy was suspended for 14 race days and ordered to forfeit his riding fee and Mountain Close was banned from racing for 60 days.

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