Appreciating the step-up to three miles, the grey mare travelled well throughout and, having shadowed market rival, Down Ace, asserted between the last two fences for an emphatic four and a half lengths win.
“The ground makes a big difference to her,” stated Ahern. “Unlike the last day, Brian said he never had to get after her today. She’s so much better on better ground.”
And he explained: “She’s had two fast runs and I have no immediate plan for her. But she’ll probably go to Limerick for the mares race next month (the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase on March 15).”
Brian Hayes completed his double when Goulane Chosen provided trainer David McGrath with his first win since September 1999 by taking the Cashel Maiden Hurdle at the expense of Mick Winters’ promising newcomer Bitsandpieces.
Goulane Chosen swept past the runner-up (which made a mistake) at the second last flight and was soon clear. But he idled and allowed Davy Russell’s mount rejoin him again before the final flight. On the run-in, however, Goulane Chosen forged clear to score by three and a half lengths.
“It’s great to have a winner again,” admitted McGrath. “This horse is still a big baby – you saw what he did out there. Sometimes they take time to learn. We’ll give him one more run over hurdles, but he looks a real staying chaser.”
Liam Burke savoured his first success, under rules, since My Murphy landed the valuable Irish Stallion Farms Novice Handicap Chase in Navan last March when Sumos Novios justified 9/4 favouritism in the Ballycahill Beginners Chase. The winner was ridden by Andrew McNamara, who enjoyed big-race success on The Listener for this horse’s owners, the Old Moss Syndicate.
And, ironically, Burke intends aiming the massively-built seven-year-old (17.2 hands plus, according to his trainer) at that same Navan event, explaining: “He’s a very difficult horse to train – it’s hard to keep condition on him – and this was only his fifth run. You can’t train him normally, with other horses and he’s very hard on himself.
“He’s very big, but he’s fierce athletic and is able to shorten and get out of trouble when he has to. The race I have in mind for him is the novice handicap in Navan next month, the race My Murphy won last year. But it’s nice to have a winner – I was colder than cold!”
Willie Mullins was not present to see his only runner Lockstockandbarrel, in the colours of Mrs Sue Magnier, score an impressive hurdling debut win under Ruby Walsh in the thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle.
Always prominent, the Flemensfirth gelding jumped enthusiastically and stayed on strongly to slam Captain Hox by nine lengths, prompting Ruby to quip: “I wouldn’t mind being light enough to ride in these colours more often,” before adding “His bumper form was good enough to win today and he jumped super.”
Trainer Steve Mahon admitted: “I said to Tom (owner Tom Quinn) that this was his day and I had a nice few quid on him at 33/1,” after He Rock’s, ridden by Ger Fox, defied top-weight in the Rock Of Cashel Handicap Chase, beating Truckin All Night after favourite Glen Ode fell at the second last.
“I would have been very disappointed if he didn’t show his form today,” added Mahon. “Ger gave him a lovely ride – he’s a neighbour of mine from home and reminds me of Barry Geraghty when he started. This horse gallops all day and jumps like a buck. I’ve always held him in the same regard as Prince Of Tara – he won a Troytown and I’d like to think this fellow could improve along the same lines.”
Sheila Lavery, whose graduate Itorio struck gold in Qatar last week, registered a rare National Hunt success when Laid Back Luke proved an impressive, seventeen lengths winner of the bumper in the hands of Jamie Codd. “I can’t take much of the credit,” said the trainer. “I only got the horse nine days ago – he’s owned by neighbours of mine and was unlucky in two point-to-points, so he deserved this. He won a schooling bumper, on the bridle, with Robbie Colgan so I decided them to put him into training. I’d say he’s for sale but, if we still have him, he’ll go hurdling. It’s lovely to have a National Hunt horse in the yard.”
Samanntom, trained by Aidan Fogarty for his father Joe, will reappear in a 0-109 handicap hurdle at Punchestown next Wednesday, following his gutsy, all-the-way win under Mark Enright in the Killinan Handicap Hurdle.