On an afternoon that saw eight races, the Donnchadh Doyle-trained Bendanella lit up the meeting for many by destroying the opposition in the fiercely-competitive five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
Runner-up on his career debut at Ballydarragh last month, Bendanella (3/1 – 2/1) always travelled smoothly for Andrew Latta with the winning son of Heron Island easing to the front on the approach to the third last of the 15 obstacles. There was only going to be one outcome from two out as Bendanella stayed on stoutly to contain the promising Tisamystery, who finished third to Rockchasebullett on his previous outing at this same venue in November, by two lengths. The well-fancied Moonshine Lad made a serious blunder at the sixth and he was well out of contention when pulling up with six fences remaining.
“This is a grand horse and we will now think about sending him to the Brightwells sale after racing at Cheltenham next Saturday,” said Doyle of the John Paul Cosgrave-owned Bendanella.
Ballindaggin-based Doyle and Latta then doubled-up courtesy of Maxi’s Lady (6/1) in the first division of the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden. The Gold Well-sired Maxi’s Lady, a respectable fifth to Truckers Darling at Aghabullogue two weeks earlier, went to the head of affairs after the third last and she was clearly containing long-time leader Simple Sums when Michael Cullen’s representative crashed out at the final fence.
Jamie Codd rarely leaves this venue empty-handed and he partnered three winners. Codd recorded his middle success aboard Brian Hamilton’s Co Down raider Warne (11/4) in the open lightweight. Warne, a former three-time track winner for Edward O’Grady, still had all of five lengths to make up on Fort George and Mandy Carroll on the turn into the straight before the third last. The winning nine-year-old however edged ever closer from the second last and he led from the final fence to beat the gallant Mandy Carroll by seven lengths. The Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase at Leopardstown next month will be Warne’s next port of call.
The south Co Wexford amateur earlier landed the winners of three aboard Tony Martin’s ex-handicap chaser Top Four (7/2).
The recent Aghabullogue scorer Lord Heathfield, backed from 11/4 into evens, was still holding a five-length advantage and was seemingly travelling best when overjumping the third last and then cruelly unseating his rider. Top Four moved ever closer from the second last and he struck the front at the final fence en-route to beating Schindlers Rock by two and a half lengths.
Codd came to the rescue of favourite backers by returning to the coveted number one slot aboard Liam Kenny’s recent Tinahely runner-up Liberty One (evens — 9/10) in the second division of the seven-year-old and upwards maiden. Liberty One overtook the frontrunning Perky Bob at the second last and he duly strode clear to dismiss Dranaghs Dream by eight lengths.
Shane McCullagh, younger brother of top flat jockey Niall McCullagh, steered his own horse Candle Island (7/1) to success in the first instalment of this same closing contest. The towering Candle Island, runner-up at Lisronagh last May, assumed command from the second last to thwart favourite Scenic Route by two lengths.
Mullinavat-based dairy-farmer Sean Walsh struck with Lisclogher Lad (5/1) in the six-year-old geldings’ maiden. Lisclogher Lad, who was fitted with a martingale, made virtually all the running with capable five lb claimer Jimmy O’Rourke. Whilst headed briefly by runner-up Jamrham before the second last, last month’s Ballydarragh third Lisclogher Lad was back in front at the final fence and he forged clear in likeable fashion on the flat to oblige by three lengths.
Derek O’Connor got on the scoresheet by combining with Ross O’Sullivan to capture a vintage second division of the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden with Down Ace (5/1).
The white-faced Down Ace moved through to lead on the inner after the fourth last and she had just being joined by the patiently-ridden Just A Tick when the latter made a horrendous final fence blunder forfeiting whatever winning chance that she may have had with eight lengths then separating the pair.