The nine-year-old, backed from 7/2 to 2/1 favourite, had four lengths to make up jumping the final fence but stayed on under Townend’s driving and got up in the dying strides to foil Tribes And Banner, ridden by John Cullen, which had looked an assured winner when forging two lengths clear on the run-in, with 40/1 shot Fantastic Gold a close third.
“He missed the two fences down the back and I though he had no chance jumping the last,” admitted a delighted Tony Martin afterwards. “He doesn’t enjoy winter ground and today’s conditions were just right for him. We’ll mix it with him. And he’ll probably head for Listowel next.”
Townend completed a double when the Tom Taaffe-trained Heaney captured the finale, the Ballinrobe On-Course Vets Beginners Chase from Dale Street, after the winner’s market rival, Darroun and Ruby Walsh, crashed at the ninth.
The significance of Heaney’s win, in the green and red colours of Olivia O’Reilly, and Mayo, was not lost on the winning trainer, who quipped: “It’s nice to see the Mayo colours in the winner’s enclosure again !”
Earlier, Orgilgo Bay, runner-up to Battle Of Marnngo in the Group 2 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes last year, belatedly got off the mark when landing the Ballinrobe Racecourse Of The Year Maiden in convincing style under Gary Carroll.
Gelded since his last run, at Roscommon in May, John McConnell’s charge forged clear with more than a furlong to race to slam Beyond Berlin by three lengths in a race which saw the Aidan O’Brien-trained favourite Shield drop away tamely with three furlongs to race before being virtually pulled up. Later found to be “clinically abnormal”.
A relieved John McConnell commented: “We have plenty of options for him. He might stick to the flat for the moment and will be an ideal horse for staying handicap next year, maybe even an Ebor horse.”
Apprentice Connor King continued on his winning ways when partnering Timjoe to victory in the David Heneghan Memorial Handicap, a twenty-ninth winner of the season for the Count Cork-born teenager and a first ever flat success for trainer Terence O’Brien.
Building on his recent second at Roscommon, Timjoe, successful in the point-to-point field, is certainly proving his versatility and will probably head for Listowel.
Another apprentice Gary Halpin registered his seventh career success when Maude Adams, trained by his boss Kevin Prendergast, powered to an impressive win in the Breaffy House Resort rated Race, the fifth win of her career.
Flawless Filly, ridden for Paul Deegan by Chris Hayes, provided the shock of the evening when capturing the Jennings Meats Handicap by a half length at the expense of Las Encinas which, once again, flattered to deceive.
And locally-trained Muzak, a course specialist at Ballinrobe, proved an emphatic winner of the Corrib Oil Handicap Chase, Robbie Dunne’s mount drawing clear to beat top-weight Boxer Beat6 by seven lengths.