And the Cloughjordan-based handler was among the many riders who welcomed the track’s new ‘loop’ which was used for the first time, commenting: “It used to be tight out there, but the new ground makes it a lovely galloping track,” after partnering 4/5 favourite San Gabriel to an emphatic win in the opening Mulholland Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle.
San Gabriel, having his third run in a week, made a mistake when challenging at the second last but was soon in command and came home six lengths clear of Effernock Lad, prompting Hogan to add: “It was an average contest and he was having his third quick run, but he did it well. He couldn’t handle winter ground but loved that fast, safe surface tonight. We might mix-it with him and he’ll probably be going to Galway.”
Also likely to be Ballybrit-bound is Hogan’s other winner Ocean Glandore, which had to dig deep to get home by a neck from Indian Fairy in the Ladies Day At Ballinrobe Maiden Hurdle. The five-year-old is owned by the Lostwelton Syndicate, from Monivea, Co Galway.
A course and distance winner last July, Xsquared defied top weight for Joanna Morgan and John Cullen when recording a clear-cut win in the John Madden & Sons Handicap Hurdle. The six-year-old survived a mistake at halfway before easing into contention and had the race in safe-keeping when nearest pursuer Illtakeitfromhere crashed at the final flight.
There were three ‘opportunity’ races on the card. And punters enjoyed mixed luck, the biggest blow coming in the first division of the Audi Ballina Ballinrobe Opportunity Handicap Hurdle when 28/1 shot Barney King scored for trainer John Carr, providing rider David Hickey, (20), from Roscrea. with his first success in the saddle.
The second division saw Limerick publican and trainer Flan Costello register his first success in almost four years when Diamondgeezer Luke, with Andrew Ring deputising for David Splaine (stood down after an earlier fall), proved too strong for Thoonavolla. Ring subsequently received a two-day whip ban.
It was the winner’s first success, at the 37th attempt, under rules. And Costello declared: “Hallelujah! The moral of the story is that you have to keep trying.”
Earlier, the Willie Treacy-trained Fethard Player, with Ian McCarthy in the saddle, landed a tidy gamble (11/2 to 7/2 favourite) in the Eamon Sheridan Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, coasting home thirteen lengths clear of Katys Girl.
Lady riders captured both divisions of the bumper. Nina Carberry partnered the Gordon Elliott-trained Dancing Meadows, a beaten favourite in her only point-to-point outing, to victory over Run Fly Run (Patrick Mullins) in the first division.
And Katie Walsh gave 2/1 favourite Alton Bay an ultra-confident ride in the finale, pouncing on the home turn before scampering clear to win convincingly by six lengths for trainer Peter Fahey.