Walsh’s prospects of overhauling the reigning champion over the five days of the Punchestown Festival are probably slim. But he gave himself a timely boost when landing the opening July 12th BBQ Evening Beginners Chase on the Willie Mullins- trained Turban, having only his second start over fences.
The six-year-old, sent off 7/4 favourite, jumped soundly and travelled strongly before taking command between the last two fences to beat market rival Darwins Fox convincingly by almost five lengths.
Walsh commented: “He travelled well and jumped super. It’s a while since he ran and, although he wouldn’t handle proper summer ground, if we have another Irish summer like last year, he could keep going.”
The Walsh double was completed when Living Next Door, trained by Tony Martin, justified 4/1 favouritism in the Fathers Day June 16th Novice Handicap Hurdle slamming Whiskey And Rye by six lengths.
Martin commented: “That should put his owner John Breslin in good form for Punchestown – he’s over from New York.”
“A few things went wrong with this horse since he won his maiden in Limerick. But he was good today. I have him entered for Punchestown on Wednesday, but I don’t think he’ll get in. He enjoyed that ground and I’ll try to find something else for him, before he gets a break.”
Dougal Philps (trained by Willie Mullins) was sent off an uneasy 2/1 favourite to complete a treble for Walsh in the Family Evening Racing Maiden Hurdle but failed to get to grips with the Paul Townend-ridden all-the-way winner Spot The Pro.
Trained by Pat Kelly, Spot The Pro, gaining his reward for a string of solid placed efforts, jumped fluently in front and, although stalked by the Walsh-ridden Dougal Philps turning for home, stayed on strongly to score by 12 lengths.
John Joe Walsh was on the mark again when Silver Fiend, strongly ridden by Brian O’Connell, foiled the flattering Way Up in the Air in the Follow Us On Twitter Handicap Hurdle, prompting his trainer to explain: “He’s back on song and loved that ground. Brian gave him a good ride. And, after two seconds earlier, I was afraid we’d have no winner.”
Eddie Kent, based at Castlelyons, Co Cork registered his first jumps success when the home-bred Teochew proved a decisive winner of the Follow Cork On Facebook Mares Maiden Hurdle.”
Teochew’s win was also notable for his rider Donal MacAuley, back as a professional since early in the New Year and registering his first success on home soil since returning from an 18-month stint in Australia, where he rode two winners.
Claire O’Connell savoured her second racecourse success, and her first in more than four years, when the well-backed Kennoway (Andrew Lynch) beat Steady Ed in the Munster Handicap Chase.
And, after saddling a trio of placed horses in the earlier hurdle action, Robert Tyner gained compensation when Young Finnegan, enterprisingly ridden by Barry O’Neill, landed the bumper in impressive style, beating The Pounds by 12 lengths.