Back In Focus runaway winner

Back In Focus, formerly in the care of Howard Johnson and having a second outing for Willie Mullins, made an excellent debut over fences in the Kevin McManus Beginners Chase at Listowel yesterday.

Back In Focus runaway winner

Ruby Walsh soon had him striding along in front and, in the main, the seven-year-old measured his fences with real accuracy.

From the third last it was a procession and Back In Focus gradually stretched clear to beat market rival White Star Line by a whopping 33 lengths.

Said Mullins: “He looks a useful acquisition, has a huge long stride and I told Ruby not to be afraid to go on if there was no pace.

“He gallops all day and seems to like that ground. We will now try and creep our way up the ranks with him.”

Mullins completed a double when 1-10 shot Annie Power toyed with her only rival, Vintage Supreme, on the way to scoring by 61 lengths in the Bumper.

Annnie Power is a possible star of the future, having been bought out of the Jim Bolger yard after winning her only two previous races at Galway and Wexford.

“She may be what we thought and will have a break now and then go novice hurdling,” said Mullins.

The featured Guinness Handicap Hurdle saw Davy Russell enjoy his first success of the week when Lough Ferrib got the best of a tough battle with the favourite, Princeton Plains.

Trained by John Hassett, the winner was nicely supported in the ring from 6-1 to 9-2. He buckled down well to hold Princeton Plains and Tony McCoy and then, predictably, survived a stewards’ inquiry.

Russell’s saddle began to slip going to the second last, so he kicked his right leg out of the irons. And, for balance, he then removed his left leg after the final flight.

Said Hassett: “He had to have a chance after his run at Galway. I don’t know what will be next, but will take the horse home and admire him for a while.”

Ian McCarthy, who rode third placed Shamiran, was found guilty of using his whip with excessive frequency and not giving him time to respond and was suspended for two days.

The Helena Sheahan Memorial Maiden, a particularly poor contest, went to the Dermot Weld-trained previously once-raced Troon, partnered by Pat Smullen.

Exact, who has to be a candidate for one of the worst horses to ever come out of Ballydoyle, tried to make all, but the winner picked him up readily before the furlong pole to score going away.

Said Smullen: “He did it well and will obviously be better on better ground.”

The Weld-Smullen combination was deprived of a double when their newcomer, Muntasef, was beaten a nose by Lordhighprotector in the Tote Jackpot Guarantee Median Auction Maiden.

Lordhighprotector is trained by Pat Shanahan who, of course, spent much of his riding career with Weld.

The principals had a terrific last furlong tussle, with the winner just getting the verdict, under a superb Ronan Whelan drive.

The pair got close together, but both ran totally straight and it was a surprise when a stewards’ inquiry was called. The decision to allow the result to stand was a certainty.

Commented Shanahan: “It is great to win and she will now go to the sales.”

Shanahan and Whelan landed a 65-1 double when Romintheglomin ran away with the TP Walsh Memorial Handicap.

Whelan made his move at the furlong pole and the daughter of Whipper powered clear to score by seven and a half lengths.

It was a first ever double for Shanahan as a trainer and he said: “Six furlongs was to sharp for her last time (Curragh) and might have needed the run as well.”

Chris Hayes took his total for the week to five when landing the Thomas O’Connor Memorial Handicap on Jim Culloty’s Marlos Moment.

Third to King Of Aran at the Curragh last Saturday, the winner was best for money in the ring, 7-2 to 11-4 favouritism.

Set alight well over a furlong down by Hayes, Marlos Moment soon forged on and was always holding Moveable Asset in the closing stages to give Culloty his first winner at the track.

“He’s improving and will probably go back over hurdles shortly,” reported Culloty.

Coole Avenue, whose only previous win came here in June of 2010, took the Ladbrokes’ Handicap Hurdle for the father and son duo of Tom and Bryan Cooper.

Bryan produced Coole Avenue to lead going to the last and he found plenty to beat Victrix Gale, who was none too clever at the obstacle.

“He’s had a bit of leg trouble, but his form this year has been solid’, said Cooper senior. “Bryan was brilliant on him, he’s as slow as a wet week.”

The attendance was 17,307, as against 18,558 last year. Betting with the bookmakers was way down at €640,866, from €998,992 a year ago.

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