The Colm Murphy-trained nine-year-old, off the track since scoring at Killarney last July, edged ahead at the final fence before staying on to beat favourite Jarob by three-quarters of a length with the flattering Fort Smith a close third.
“I suppose he deserved that on hurdle form,” said Murphy. “He’s had a lot of problems and our biggest problem has been keeping him sound. But to be fair, when he gets to the track, he runs well. He’s not over-big but if we have a clear run with him, we should have plenty of fun with him for the summer.”
Denied on Jarob, Robbie Colgan was successful on nine-year-old mare The Conker Club for Bill Harney and the Old Port Syndicate in the Irish Stallion Farms Beginners Chase.
The 5/2 market-leader came from off a strong pace to lead after the second last and beat Belgrove by more than a length.
“The lads are having great fun with her,” Harney said. “She’s been knocking on the door and deserved this. I have no plan for her — we’ll sit and think. But she could go back over hurdles at some stage.”
Back at the scene of his biggest success, with Lion Na Bearnai in the 2012 Irish Grand National, Tom Gibney saddled his first winner since May when To Choose justified 9/4 favouritism in the opening maiden hurdle, a 23rd birthday present for winning rider Adrian Heskin.
The Choisir gelding had to dig deep on the run-in to master Dave’s Stamper by three-quarters of a length.
“I don’t think anyone would begrudge him that,” Gibney said. “Adrian thought all the way he’d win easily, but he had to work hard for it.”
The Liam Cusack-trained Bog War proved another successful 9/4 favourite when landing the Summer Evening Racing At Fairyhouse Handicap Hurdle in emphatic style under 5lb claimer David Mullins.
The six-year-old, described by his trainer as “a grand little horse and game-out,” was following-up a recent win at Navan and defying a 6lb. rise.
Cusack explained: “If he’s okay in the morning, I’ll give him an entry for the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle in Punchestown next week. I wasn’t sure that he’d get into it.”
David Mullins was denied a double when 11/4 favourite Windy Millie was collared late and beaten a half-length by Boss Croaker and Philip Enright in the Promote Your Local Business At Fairyhouse Handicap Chase.
Boss Croaker is trained by Robert Tyner, whose wife Mary explained: “We’ll put that down to Joe (the late, former Minister Joe Walsh) who was part of the syndicate (the Clonakilty Racing Club).
“The horse is a tough devil and likes this better ground. He’ll keep going for the summer. There’s another similar handicap chase in Punchestown for him next month (May 16).”
The biggest-priced winner of the evening was Sabrina Harty’s massively-built Peter The Mayo Man (10/1), who landed the bumper in the colours of Adrian McAndrew.
Ridden by Davy Roche, he got the better of Don’t Touch It by a length after the pair overhauled favourite Delegate.
The delighted trainer said: “He’s a massive horse, with loads of speed — he’s bred to be a miler. He’s gotten much stronger since his first run and is eating like a bull. And we’ve done loads of dressage with him.”
She added: “He likes this better ground and will improve with time. He jumped great and is very agile for his size. He should develop into a smashing dual-purpose type.”
Ger Fox had to work hard to bring Never Said That, the third winning favourite of the night, from off the pace to foil Some Drama in the three-mile Next Racing At Fairyhouse May 28th Handicap Hurdle for owner-trainer-breeder Eddie Cawley.
“It didn’t appear the strongest of races,” commented Cawley, “They went a strong pace and he couldn’t lie up. He’s no flying machine, but they came back to him.”