Smullen’s determination gets Rua home

Former champion Pat Smullen was seen at his brilliant and determined best when getting odds-on favourite Ceol Rua home a narrow winner of the Ladies Day At Ballinrobe Maiden in Ballinrobe last night.

Hard at work on the Willie Mullins-trained mare with more than five furlongs to race, the seven-year-old gradually wore down her rivals, challenging inside the final furlong to foil Cnoc Na Sioga and Sword Of Honour by a half-length and a neck.

Winning owner-breeder Fiona McStay, from Castlewellan, County Down, was present and was full of praise for Smullen, who commented: “That was hard work. They went a good gallop, which helped. This mare is all stamina and heart. The tight track wasn’t ideal, but she kept finding a bit more for me. Stamina and guts got here there.”

Curragh trainer Michael Grassick, who has a fine strike-rate on the track, labelled Allusive Power’s win in the Irish Stallion Farms Fillies Maiden “a little miracle“, the daughter of Cerglas pouncing late under Niall McCullagh to deny favourite Golden Acorn.

The favourite, under hard driving from Chris Hayes, edged left off the rail inside the final furlong, affording McCullagh an opportunity which he seized with both hands, getting up close home to score by a length.

“She’s always had ability,” said Grassick.

“Maybe the small field helped because she doesn’t like getting messed about. She’s entered for the July Sales, but I’m not sure if the plan will change after this.”

The other two flat races provided rare successes on the level for Co. Galway trainers Val O’Brien and David Kelly.

O’Brien saddled his first flat winner since 2003 when Cognomen, ridden by Tuam-born apprentice Leigh Roche, successfully reverted to the flat in the Michael & Peggy Down Memorial Handicap.

Driven clear approaching the straight, the five-year-old, in the colours of the trainer’s wife Bernadette, stayed on stoutly, prompting the trainer to comment: “There was a good Tuam connection to this. This fellow is fit from hurdling, stays well and goes on that ground. He did it well and kept going. He’ll mix it for the summer and will probably go back hurdling now.”

Later David Kelly saddled his first flat winner and enjoyed a quick return on his investment when Via Del Corso, enterprisingly ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, landed the Coleman Quarries Handicap, holding the late surges of Painted Fingers and Curl Cat by a couple of necks.

Kelly claimed the winner for €5,000 out of a claimer in Sligo last Tuesday and admitted: “I bought her for hurdling before spotting this race and decided to let her take her chance. She’ll run on the flat and over hurdles for the summer.”

Split Ear, a winner on this track in May 2010, landed a tidy morning gamble when winning the John Madden & Sons Handicap Hurdle for trainer Tony Mullins and his nephew Emmet.

“He likes Ballinrobe, and so do I!” quipped the winning trainer after his charge took over from the flattering Kilflora at the last before scoring by two and a half lengths.

“He wasn’t himself last year, but is back. If the handicapper is hard on him, he’ll probably go for a beginners chase he jumps fences well.”

The 107-rated Miradane, representing Mouse Morris, put his experience to good use in the earlier Purcell Construction Maiden Hurdle, stretching clear under Martin Ferris before the third last and staying on to beat Mic Milano by almost five lengths.

The winning rider said: “Mouse told me to be handy and to use his experience. Passing the stands, I felt they were going too slow.

“I decided to let him stride on and do things in his own time. I got a chance to give him a breather and he kept going well.”

Thirteen-year-old Muskatsturm, trained in Letterkenny, County Donegal by Charlie Moore and having his first run over hurdles for more than eight years, captured the first division of the Mask Pavilion Opportunity Handicap Hurdle under Keith Donoghue.

“He’s always been a good horse, but has had his problems,” explained Moore. “He’s a long time off and it’s eight years since he hurdled. I only have him a short time and the plan was to retire him after tonight. But I’m not so sure now.”

The second division of this event went to 3/1 favourite Dunroe Boy, ridden for John Carr by Ian McCarthy. The seven-year-old slammed Yachvili by nine lengths, despite idling in front. He’ll now head for Bellewstown.

* The Stewards were busy after this event, suspending Killian Moore, rider of The Millar Murray for ten racedays for failing to ride his mount to attain the best possible finishing position.

In front, Moore rode a finish with a circuit to race, eased his mount and then gave chase before pulling up at the second last.

Rob Jones, rider of third-placed Pennys Tune was banned for three days for careless riding, following an incident on the run-in involving runner-up Yachvili.

Brian Hayes received a seven-day ban for his whip-use on third-placed Harangue in the first division of this handicap hurdle.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox