Hennessy admitted beforehand: “I’m as nervous as I would be on Derby night,” and, after greeting his winner, commented, “This is unbelievable. I only have three horses in training and never dreamed of winning with my first runner.”
Based near Paulstown, County Kilkenny, Hennessy added: “I got the three horses from Tony Mullins and he’s the man I have to thank most. He put a lot of homework into this and, because he’s only five minutes from me, he lets me use his gallops.”
Hennessy, whose second runner, eleven-year-old Bricks And Porter later finished fourth behind the Pat Martin trained top-weight Appletreemagic in the Crowne Plaza Handicap, admitted: “Coming here today, I didn’t know how the horses were, but I knew they were well and as fit as I could get them.”
Padraig Beggy, successful on Appletreemagic, later completed a double when the Luke Comer trained Confidence, ridden with tremendous confidence, scored a facile win in the iGo Racing Race Night Maiden. On a night of shock, the Pat O’Donnell trained Keep It Cool (Billy Lee) held the fast-finishing Cry For The Moon by a head in the finale and will campaign over hurdles and on the flat for the summer, with a handicap hurdle at Tipperary in three weeks her next assignment.
Meanwhile, Eoin Griffin, who enjoyed a welcome return to form with Baracas at Fairyhouse earlier in the week, took the training honours at Kilbeggan, completing a double with veteran Artiste Bay (Eddie O’Connell) in the Sean Hughes Memorial Handicap Chase and the Mikey Fogarty-ridden mare Sallyanka in the bumper.
The victory of nine-year-old Artiste Bay, taking advantage of the last fence blunder by leader Pistol Jack, gave Griffin special pleasure, the trainer commenting: “He’s only small, but he has a big heart. He’s always been a favourite in the yard and can’t carry big weights. He needs three miles, or further.”
Davy Russell was stood down for the rest of the evening, as a precaution, following a fall from Inter Mutanda in the Greville Arms Hotel Handicap Hurdle, won by the Pat Downey-trained Larkin. But he’s confident of resuming at Sligo tomorrow before facing into the Punchestown Festival.
It was an evening to remember for Harley Dunne (17), who tasted victory on his first ride, the Colin Bowe-trained Knckreigh in the Kilbeggan Races Patrons Club Maiden Hurdle.