Ridden by Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden, the J P McManus-owned six-year-old edged ahead early on the run-in, before Ruby Walsh rallied the favourite with only a short-head separating them at the line.
The winning trainer commented: “I thought the 10lb. he went up for Limerick was hefty. But the handicapper was right and I was wrong.
“He’s won his first two of the season and you can’t ask any more than that. He’ll go back handicapping and, although he handles that ground well, which is a huge plus, he might be better on better ground.”
Champion-jockey Davy Russell, who rode ninth-placed Start Me Up, was later suspended for one race-day, when found guilty of using his whip when his chance of winning had gone.
The Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh partnership also came off second best in the opening Racegoers Package Maiden Hurdle when Sarabad, filling the runner-up spot for a third consecutive time, failed to cope with the Colm Murphy-trained Mister Hotelier.
Ridden by Robbie Power, Mister Hotelier prevailed by a length and three-quarters and his trainer said: “That makes up a little for the last day, when he wasn’t right after the race. He was entitled to win on his bumper form and is going the right way. We’ll see what mark the handicapper gives him and he should pay his way. He might improve on a bit of nicer ground.”
Trainer Aaron Stronge had cause for double celebration when Andrew McNamara partnered his charge Carsonstown Bridge to a gutsy, half-length win over Some Drama in the Fairyhouse Membership Maiden Hurdle..
The County Down handler, celebrating his birthday, was recording his first racecourse success and admitted: “That wasn’t before its time. We hit the post that many times with him, I thought we had knocked it over. Two and a half miles is probably ideal in that ground, although he should stay further when it dries up. I suppose we’ll come back for a handicap somewhere.”
Without a win since last February, Mister First, trained by Robbie Hennessy for his father Bill, came good under a patient Andrew Lynch ride in the Home Of The Ladbrokes Irish Grand National Novice Handicap Hurdle.
The seven-year-old, whose only previous success was recorded over fences, stretched clear to beat Peace In The West by nine-and-a-half lengths and Robbie Hennessy stated: “He’s back, at last, and deserved that. He’s a tricky horse to ride, and Andrew knows him so well. You have to sit and sit on him and, when you get there, you have to drive him out, because he does very little in front.”
Hennessy confirmed that Mister First will now go back chasing in a two-and-a-half mile handicap on Thyestes day in Gowran Park.
Out of luck with Peace In The West, Francis Flood gained compensation when 5/2 favourite Miss Xian landed the Follow Fairyhouse On Facebook Handicap Hurdle, prompting Fran Jnr. to explain: “She’s tough and from the same family as Couldntbebetter. So it’s worth a lot to get a win on her card.”
Dunroe Boy, which finished second, was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth, his rider Ian McCarthy picking-up a five-day ban for using his whip with excessive frequency and not allowing his mount time to respond.
The colours of owner Michael O’Dowd made a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure when the Tom Foley-trained Whatdreamsrmadeof broke her duck in the Follow Fairyhouse On Twitter Handicap Hurdle.
A first winner since October for Roger Loughran, the Beneficial mare was close to the pace throughout before forging clear to triumph by seven lengths. A delighted Foley commented: “We would have gone home disappointed if he had been beaten.”
The Lalor family struck in the mares bumper when the home-bred Old Vic mare Carrigeen Lonicera outstayed Kymin’s Way.
Trained by Dick Lalor, Carrigeen Lonicera provided his daughter Liz, out of action due to injury for the second half of last year, with her first racecourse success since February. The winning trainer said: “She’ll make a lovely staying chaser in time. But she took time to learn her trade in point-to-points before winning well in Killaloe.”