The four-year-old High Chaparral gelding, backed from 14/1 to 13/2, got the better of Chill by a head after a tremendous tussle, giving trainer Madden and his son and namesake, better known as ‘Slippers’, a fourth win in eight days. An even more impressive statistic is the fact that Whatever It Takes, winner of his maiden in Clonmel eleven months ago, was Madden’s fourth winner from his last four runners (following Clancy Strand in Naas, Highdownhill in Roscommon and Urhavinalaugh in Sligo last week).
A man of few words, ‘Boots’ explained: “I suppose I’m on a bit of a roll. This fellow is only a handy horse and doesn’t like winter ground. Niall gave him a great ride and is flying at the moment (he rode a double in Downpatrick on Sunday). I was delighted with the way the horse battled for him. This was a nice pot to win and we’ll look for another similar handicap for him.”
An impressive, eleven lengths winner at Sligo last Wednesday, Seventh Sign followed-up for trainer Tommy Carmody and English owner Andrew Tinkler in the opening Irish Jockeys Association Handicap.
Raised 16lb. by the handicapper after his Sligo win and officially 11lb. ‘well-in’ here, the three-year-old Pivotal colt was ridden again by Niall McCullagh, who sent him to the front three furlongs from home.
But punters who made him 6/4 favourite had to sweat inside the final furlong as he appeared to idle and had to be driven out to hold the challenge of Annie Go by a half-length, prompting his trainer to comment: “I’m delighted with him — he’s learning all the time. But he had a hard enough race and deserves a break.”
A year ago, subsequent dual Grade 1-winning hurdler Hisaabaat, in the colours of Hamdan Al Maktoum, captured the McHale Engineering Maiden. And the familiar blue and white silks were back in the winner’s enclosure last night, after Declan McDonogh partnered the Kevin Prendergast-trained Mudaffar to a short-head victory over Phangio.
“He wasn’t in love with that gluey ground. He’s a fine big horse that has taken time to get fit, but should keep improving,” was McDonogh’s post-race comment.
“My mother Margaret owns him and she’s not one bit pleased that someone nicked the price on us this morning,” said trainer Joanna Morgan after morning gamble Daigreen landed the Burleigh Accountants Handicap.
The King’s Best gelding got the better of front-runner Tohugo in the closing stages, after winning rider Pat Smullen lost his whip turning into the straight as his mount hung left briefly.
Morgan added: “This horse is still a bit giddy and will probably run over hurdles in an effort to get him to settle. Everything was right for him tonight, ground and trip. He should improve again. I always enjoy coming here — it’s been a lucky place for us over the years.”
In the other hurdle action, the Dermot Weld-trained Font Of Wisdom, winner of his maiden at last year’s Galway Festival and a beaten favourite at that meeting two weeks ago, made a successful debut in the Costello McDermott Maiden Hurdle.
Confidently handled by Paul Townend, the four-year-old, in the colours of Dr. Ronan Lambe, beat front-running 25/1 shot Decade Player emphatically by five and a half lengths in a race which saw champion-jockey Davy Russell unseated from fourth-placed Sizing Machine soon after the winning-post. Rusell was stood down for the rest of the evening, with a minor shoulder concern, but was not seriously injured.