After the defeats of Jenari, Its The Ice I Like and Knockgraffon King, odds-on players must have been punch-drunk before Patrick Mullins oozed confidence on The Paparrazi Kid, coasting home a 15 lengths winner from Clash Of Kings in the Athlumney Flat Race.
And Willie Mullins admitted: “That’s very pleasing. He might be better than I thought he was. I don’t think he’ll be going hurdling yet — he’ll stick to this job instead.”
Trainer Dessie Hughes, in hospital for back surgery yesterday, missed seeing Lyreen Legend comprehensively turning over 8/13 ‘jolly’ Jenari in the opening Christmas Novice Hurdle, Bryan Cooper’s mount coming up the hill in good style to score by four and a half lengths.
The winning rider said: “He’s still a bit babyish, but handles that bad ground. And he’d be a lot better over two and a half miles. He gave me a nice feel today, quickened well after the last and won well. He’s a nice prospect.”
Off the track since a bumper success at Naas in January, the Noel Meade-trained Knockgraffon King proved disappointing in the Slane Maiden Hurdle, struggling half a mile from home before staying on to take second spot, eight lengths behind convincing winner Benefficient, ridden for Tony Martin by Ruby Walsh.
Having made most of the running, the Beneficial delighted Martin, who stated: “The man who owns him, Aidan Shiels, is one of the best owners you could have, And I’m delighted for him.
“We’ve always thought he was a good horse, but he has been a bit unlucky, particularly the last day. And we rode him right today. With a bit of luck, he’ll go on from here.”
Out of luck on Knockgraffon King, Paul Carberry had earlier been successful on the Andy Oliver-trained Abou Ben, which landed a tidy gamble (14/1 to 8/1) in the 2012 Navan Membership Maiden Hurdle, pipping odds-on favourite Its The Ice I Like by a nose.
Oliver explained: “This horse was off the track for a couple of years and came to me three months ago. He has plenty of ability, but was a bit fresh the last day and needed the run. He got a great ride from Paul and seemed to handle the ground well. And, judging by the way he finished, he’ll stay further. We have no real plan for him.”
Paddy Flood registered his first win since last March when Last Time D’Albain, raised 12lb. for a recent second to Cloghmile at Fairyhouse, landed the concluding ‘Prancer and Dancer’ Handicap Chase, a race transferred from Sunday’s card.
The Liam Cusack-trained French-bred jumped soundly before proving six lengths too strong for Prince Of Milan, prompting his trainer to comment: “He was probably a bit unfortunate to bump into Cloughmile in Fairyhouse and was heavily penalised for it. But he’s not a bad horse and got a lovely ride from Paddy — I’m delighted for him. We’ll see what the handicapper does, but I’d like to run this fellow, off a low weight, in one of the better handicaps.”
Reappearing just two days after getting off the mark at Fairyhouse on Saturday, Bay Of Kotor followed-up for trainer John Larkin and 3lb. claimer Andrew Thornton in the Christmas Greetings Handicap Hurdle.
Kept wide throughout, the 9/4 favourite proved too strong for top-weight Lilywhitedancer and Askmeroe, which stayed on late. And winning trainer Larkin said: “It’s hard to get horses like that. He’s a half-brother to a couple of good flat horses but, unfortunately, I can’t get a stalls cert for him. We’ll try to find another similar handicap for him over the next few weeks.”
The Philip Fenton-trained Strange Encounter showed admirable courage and resilience to get the better of Brookville, after a protracted battle, in the 2012 Membership Handicap Hurdle.
Ridden by Brian O’Connell, the blinkered Witness Box gelding prevailed by a half-length, prompting Fenton to comment: “I thought they went too fast, but he kept going. He’s been a bit unlucky, a bit too free on a couple of occasions. He was brave out there and will have another crack at a handicap hurdle. He’ll go chasing in the spring, when all the good horses have finished up.”