Morris admitted: “It’s 40 years since I was here,” after the J P McManus-owned Call Rog opened his account over fences — at the seventh attempt — in the IT Sligo Student Day At Sligo Races Beginners Chase, proving seven lengths superior to Kilcarry Bridge. “It’s a nice start to the season and he’ll go for a handicap over a little bit further, but we won’t be getting too excited,” added Morris, while winning rider Mark Walsh acknowledged: “That was the best he’s ever jumped.”
Morris was on the mark again in the concluding St. Angela’s College Sligo Beginners Chase when Spot Fine, without a win in twenty-five previous starts, made all under David Casey and held the challenge of odds-on favourite Time Please by a nose, after the runner-up made a significant mistake at the fourth last fence.
“Nobody would begrudge him that — he deserved it,” declared Morris who, on hearing that the official margin was the minimum, a nose, added: “It’s as good as a mile to him.” Morris indicated that there are no plans in place for the Kayf Tara gelding.
J P McManus, owner of Call Rog, was also successful when the Noel Meade-trained Tom Horn (Paul Carberry) gained a confidence-boosting win in the Foley’s Bar & Off Licence Chase, beating odds-on favourite Arzembuoy Premier readily by six and a half lengths.
“It was a nice opportunity for him,” commented Noel Meade. “He lost his way a bit and lost confidence in his last few runs. Mark (Walsh) said he hadn’t been killing himself, so we tried him in blinkers today and Paul said that his jumping improved as he went along.
“He wants a trip and will run in some of the long-distance handicaps — he’s in the Munster National, or he could go for the Cork National. The further he goes, the better.”
He’s Our Man, ridden for Ross O’Sullivan by Davy Russell, captured the featured Martin Reilly Motors Sante Fe Handicap Chase, beating favourite Cavite Beta after Nearest The Pin, close up and travelling well, took a crashing fall at the second last fence.
“On his day, he’s a very good horse over fences and everything fell into place today,” admitted a delighted O’Sullivan. “Davy was on the phone last week mad to ride him and, after today, we’ll definitely have to go down the chase route with him.”
The Andrew McNamara-ridden It’s All An Act produced a fluent display of jumping to see off market rival Illtakeitfromhere in the Frank O’Beirne Memorial Beginners Chase, to the delight of trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon. “It’s lovely to win a chase with him. Andrews says he’s much, much better over fences.
“It’s hard to believe he can’t win off 90 over hurdles and, although he jumps brilliant over fences, I’ll probably bite my tongue and go back and try to win a handicap hurdle with him.”
Paul Townend oozed confidence on Elsie throughout the opening mares beginners chase. Tom Mullins’ charge ultimately won comfortably, by three and a half lengths, from Sweet Sylvia. Townend said: “We knew she had the ability to do that. But she was jumping a bit slow and I wasn’t sure how Johnny (Jonathan Burke on the runner-up) was going but, from the back of the second last, when I gave her a squeeze, I knew she’d win.”
Abarta, trained by Val O’Brien for his brother Sean, and ridden by Philip Enright (his second winner in three days), stayed on dourly to get the better of the flattering Survival by three-quarters of a length in the Why Not Sponsor A Race At Sligo In 2015 Handicap Chase.