On a night when Halford worked two of his team for Dubai, Dabadiyan and Banna Boirche before racing, the consistent but previously luckless Settle For Red belatedly opened his account when justifying 13/8 favouritism in the first division of the one-mile 47-65 handicap.
Dropping significantly in trip, the four-year-old Redback colt responded in typically determined style to Hoban’s strong handling to get the better of Cristy’s Call by a half-length. Halford stated: “He has sharpened up and is showing more pace at home and in his races, so he coped with the drop in trip. He’s a tough and very genuine horse and will come back here.”
Victor’s Beach, a first winner since May for Shane Kelly, battled bravely to challenge between horses and gain a narrow victory over top-weight Doc Holliday in the seven-furlong Dundalk Stadium — Light Up Your Night Handicap.
Halford said: “Shane works hard and is a good rider. He has been with me a few months and, hopefully, this winner will kick things off for him.”
The Halford haul and a double for Westport-born apprentice Conor Hoban (“a great part of the team” according to the successful trainer) was completed when Senyuman notched her third course success, getting the better of Terence O’Brien’s Timjoe and Little Arrows by a couple of heads in the Floodlit Friday Nights At Dundalk Handicap.
The Firm, trained by Kevin Prendergast for his wife Lesley, gave favourite-backers the perfect start to the New Year’s polytrack action when justifying odds of 8/15 in the opening claiming maiden.
The first leg of a treble for Chris Hayes, The Firm came through to head Ghost of A Girl inside the final furlong and, despite edging left, kept on strongly to beat Ballynakelly by two and a half lengths.
Hayes explained: “It’s nice to get the first winner of the New Year. It was a formality on figures and he did it nicely enough.
“It’s a winner for a very important owner in the yard!”
Backed from 7/1 to 9/2, Armed Guard provided Hayes with the second leg of his treble when capturing the Happy New Year To All Our Patrons Handicap for trainer Eddie Lynam, wearing down Juara inside the final furling to triumph by a length and a half.
“He’s a popular horse in the yard — he’s a lead horse during the week and runs on Friday,” quipped Lynam.
Hayes completed a memorable night when seen at his strongest on the well-backed, Paul Deegan-trained Papas Way (13/2 to 4/1) in the finale, the Crowne Plaza Maiden as the Rakti gelding stayed on dourly under strong pressure to see off Sceilg and front-running favourite The Visitor.
Trainer Matty Tynan, who is based in Moyglass, Co. Tipperary, savoured his first success since July 2010 when Maontri gave crack apprentice Colin Keane his first win of the New Year in the second division of the one-mile 47-65 handicap.
The home-bred, seven-year-old mare, blinkered for the first time, made all and forged clear approaching the furlong-pole to beat Busalla by seven and a half lengths, prompting Tynan to admit: “She has been difficult to train and it has been a long wait, since her two-year-old days.”