The champion amateur registered his 70th win of 2012 , two short of the record, on board Mozoltov which, in the absence of Sizing Gold, made a successful hurdling debut when justifying favouritism in the Students Day At Gowran Park Maiden Hurdle.
Winner of two bumpers and placed in Grade 1 company, the Kayf Tara gelding romped home 24 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer Marjesjoh, prompting winning trainer Willie Mullins to comment, “He jumped well, but was a bit keen.”
“I think he’d go any trip - he has enough speed to go back in trip (to two miles) and enough stamina for two-and-a-half or further. I see him as more of a chaser than a hurdler. We’ll find a 'novice' for him somewhere.”
Stan James introduced Mozoltov at 25/1 for the Neptune Investmenets Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham and cut him to 20/1 (from 25) for the Albert Bartlett.
On a day when Patrick Mullins had to settle for the runner-up berth on two of his rides, champion jockey Davy Russell took the honours with a double, initiated when French import Umpact made an impressive start over hurdles for Tony Martin and Gigginstown House Stud in the four-year-old maiden hurdle.
Strongly supported into 5/4 favouritism with the Patrick Mullins-ridden Upazo, Umpact tracked the leaders before edging ahead at the second last. And, despite showing signs of inexperience, readily stretched clear to score emphatically from his market rival.
“He had won in France and has been showing us a nice bit at home,” explained Martin. “He won a schooling hurdle and has been doing everything right. But he’s still very green and immature. And we’ll be taking it one step at a time with him.”
Although the form of the race is unconvincing on paper, this was the performance of an exciting prospect. And Stan James make Umpact a 25/1 shot for the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham.
Later, Russell admitted: “He was probably a fortunate winner,” after the Arthur Moore-trained Treat Yourself, up 9lb. for a recent win over course and distance, got the better of Call Rog in the Scraggs Alley Carlow Novice Handicap Hurdle.
Call Rog was upsides the winner when making a mistake at the final, flight and, more significantly, stumbled a few strides later, surrendering the initiative to Russell’s mount, which went on to score by two lengths.
Pat Flynn, successful with He’s Our Music at Dundalk on Wednesday night, struck again when South South West defied his penalty in the opening three-year-old hurdle, outpointing Pacelli Road and Teofolina.
“At home, you’d think nothing of him,” admitted Flynn of Andrew McNamara’s mount, placed last time in a graded event at Fairyhouse. “But he’s a nice horse and we’re half-aiming him at the Fred Winter at Cheltenham.”
Flynn will now consider a crack at the Grade 2 juvenile race at Leopardstown on St. Stephen’s Day for the Redback gelding, owned by the WJ Souths Racing Club from Limerick.
Grainne O’Connor, sister-in-law of Derek and currently recovering from a broken leg, registered her first training success when Sherika, ridden by in-form 5lb. claimer Mark Enright, landed the Gowran Park Thanks All Its Customers In 2012 Handicap Hurdle. The mare will now head for Limerick over Christmas.
The bookmakers enjoyed some respite in the concluding races, as 33/1 shot Dante Anna provided County Wexford trainer Richie O'Connor with a welcome change of luck and gave amateur Conor Murphy (24), from Ramsgrange, a first success when beating the gambled-on Gortroe in the three-mile maiden hurdle.
And Willie McCreery won the bumper with a 25/1 debutant Kick On Boss, which travelled strongly throughout under Sonny Carey before beating the Mullins hope Siuper Mix convincingly.