Murtagh and McCullaghnet doubles at Dundalk

DOUBLES for champion jockey Johnny Murtagh and Niall McCullagh, along with trainer Eddie Lynam, proved the highlights of Dundalk’s first meeting of 2012 last night.

Murtagh kicked-off the New Year with a straight-forward victory on 4/11 favourite Muck ‘N’ Brass in the opening two-year-old maiden, the son of Aussie Rules sweeping past front-running stable-companion Attic Finch at the furlong-pole to score emphatically by two and a half lengths.

Muck ‘N’ Brass sparked an opening race double for trainer Eddie Lynam, who admitted: “It’s good to get the New Year off to a good start,” before the Emmet McNamara-ridden Akasaka proved too good for Black N Brew in the Dundalk Winter Racing Handicap, prompting his trainer to comment: “He lost his way a bit and needed the break. Joseph O’Brien has always told me there’d be a day with him. And Emmet said he won well tonight.”

Johnny Murtagh was back in the winner’s enclosure after Billyford, trained by Liam Roche for his wife Sally, landed the Handicap at the expense of the consistent but luckless Tarrsille.

The winner, making up for lost time after a three-month break in mid-career, was proving his liking for the Dundalk track and is likely to travel to Kempton, at least once, over the coming weeks.

Murtagh was denied a treble when favourite Aragorn Rouge failed to get to grips with the Michael Halford-trained, Billy Lee-ridden Melodie D’Amour in the maiden. Unfortunately, the winner, a five-year-old Hawk Wing mare, sustained a broken shoulder passing the line and had to be put down.

Back with original trainer Michael Grassick, after a spell in England, Hard Rock City became the oldest horse to win at Dundalk when defying top-weight and landing a significant morning gamble, in the first division of the Group Discounts At Dundalk Handicap.

Now 12 years of age, Hard Rock City got the better of Almadaa to initiate Niall McCullagh’s double. And a delighted Grassick stated: “He’s been working well since he came back to me and I thought he’d win, if he handled the track and the surface — I thought it might be a little quick for him at his age ! He’s nearly as old as myself. But he still loves what he does.”

McCullagh completed his double when Bramante, trained by Charles O’Brien for his mother Jacqueline, appreciated the step-up in trip in the first division of the Dundalk Stadium Handicap, coming through inside the final furlong to master Horsewithnoname.

Trainer David Nagle acknowledged: “He had to do it the hard way, from such a bad draw; but won well and will be coming back here,” after Elwazeer, which landed a major gamble here last month, defied top weight under Wayne Lordan in the second division of the Group Discounts At Dundalk Handicap.

And the Andy Oliver-trained Mutasareb, strongly ridden by Joseph O’Brien, recorded his second win on the track when battling tenaciously to keep Imprudent Miss at bay in the finale, the second division of the Dundalk Stadium Handicap.

lApprentice Cathal Landers picked-up a two-day whip ban following his ride on Obsession in the Dundalk Winter Racing Handicap while Seamus Heffernan was found guilty of careless riding on He’s Got Rhythm in the Handicap and suspended for one raceday.

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