Mr Sykes overcomes two-year absence to steal a march on rivals

THOSE punters who supported dual bumper winner, Rebel Fitz, in the Croom House Stud Maiden Hurdle at Listowel yesterday were left with a particularly sour taste in their respective mouths.

The contest was won by 25-1 shot Mr Sykes, who was having a first outing in over two years and partnered with real enterprise by John Cullen.

Mr Sykes led at the fourth and was allowed to grab a huge advantage heading out into the country for the final time.

And that, essentially, was the last any of his rivals saw of him. Mr Sykes was miles clear approaching the home turn, eventually beating Rebel Fitz by five and a half lengths. Mikey O’Connor rode Rebel Fitz and seemed almost totally oblivious to the amount of ground he had to make up on the winner from the third last.

Rebel Fitz absolutely flew home, but had been given an impossible task and never held out any hope of closing down My Sykes.

The stewards were quickly in action. They concluded that O’Connor had ridden an injudicious race and he was suspended for three days. Quite frankly, it was a lenient sentence.

David Casey, who rode third placed Worldly Wise, was also in, but he really had no case to answer, although his explanation was noted.

House Rules was always long odds-on in the John B Keane Maiden Hurdle and did the business with the minimum of fuss.

Pushed into the lead by Ruby Walsh going to the third last, he soon bounded clear to beat Khayar by 12 lengths.

“Ruby was pleased and thinks he might be better in a faster run race”, commented trainer, Henry de Bromhead.

“We will go and find a novice hurdle for him now and he will be campaigned through the summer.”

The Last Don, owned and ridden by Paul McMahon, streaked away with the Bryan McMahon Race.

He made every yard of the running, going quite slowly early on, before gradually increasing the pace.

Uneasy favourite, Run For Sol, was his closest pursuer for much of the trip, but was beaten early in the straight and eventual runner-up, Pires, never threatened to get on terms.

Trainer, Michael Halford, said: “That was a great ride from Paul, I thought he was brilliant, judging it perfectly.

“Paul has been a big supporter of ours and I’m delighted to have a winner for him.

“I’ll find another amateur contest and the plan then will be the amateur handicap at Galway on the Monday night.”

The John Joe Walsh-trained Compton Court was a 33-1 shot for the St John’s Literary Centre Handicap Hurdle, but won more like a 1-3 shot.

Produced from behind by Martin Ferris to lead at the final flight, the winner eased away to beat Missgiloney by four and a half lengths.

“He’s had a lot of problems, but improved for a recent run”, reported Walsh. “He will now go for another handicap.”

Liberty’s Gift, second at Dundalk on his debut, went one better in the Median Auction Maiden.

Paul Flynn’s gelding edged ahead at the furlong pole and Padraig Beggy didn’t have to be too hard on him to hold McMonagle by a head.

“This horse is for sale”, reported Flynn. “They (winning syndicate) had a runner yesterday, which finished 20 lengths last, so it is a bit different for them today.”

Jessica Harrington’s Royal Blue Star surely faces a major hike in the weights, following her success in the George Fitzmaurice Handicap.

A winner of a maiden at Navan previously, she was clearly tossed into this and won accordingly.

Shane Foley had the daughter of Dalakhani striding along in front from the start and the two lengths she had in hand at the line over Stylish One was no indication of her superiority.

Ben Curtis rode a whirlwind finish to land the Jackie And Gene Handicap aboard the John Larkin-trained Tres Foide.

Top weight Arkango made a brave attempt from the front, but Curtis conjured a last-gasp burst from his charge to get up on the line and score by a short head.

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