Only three went to post, and the 8-11 chance was sent to the front at tape-rise. He jumped very well in the main, was never unduly troubled, and had the measure of Upazo when that rival took a tumble at the second-last. That left The Game Changer to coast home clear of his stable companion, Shadow Catcher.
Explained winning trainer Gordon Elliott: “We’re were humming and hawing even this morning about whether to run him, but he won, so it’s great. He’ll definitely go for the Galway Hurdle. Bayan was second and he was third in the race last year, so we’ll go back again.”
Little Haarth enjoyed a welcome change of luck in the opening Keane’s Jewellers Ladies Day 11th October Maiden Hurdle. The Des McDonogh-trained five-year-old had finished runner-up on four of his previous five outings, but made the breakthrough in the hands of Paul Townend.
Content to sit in second place as Tradewinds set a strong pace, Townend asked his mount to close approaching the home-turn. Favourite Prickly also moved menacingly to that point, but Little Haarth jumped the last couple of flights well, and stretched out nicely to see off that challenger with a bit to spare.
“Stepping up in trip suited him,” said McDonogh. “He jumps the other hurdles better – a good jumper always flicks the top of the hurdle, but you can’t do that with these. He’s a well-made, strong horse, and will jump a fence eventually.”
There was late drama in the second race, as the gambled-on Duckweed got the race in the stewards’ room. Off a good pace, three runners approached the last hurdle together and there was little to separate them as they battled it out to the line.
Duckweed looked to be getting the better of the argument in the closing stages, but Thanks For Tea dipped to put his nose in front on the line, with What A Jewel just behind in third. However, the three runners had come close in the last half furlong and runner-up Duckweed, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Robbie Power, was awarded the race.
There was a tight but less-dramatic finish to the third race, and it was the game Liclash (16-1) who prevailed, for trainer Stephen Ryan and rider Shane Shortall. You Can Catch Me looked to have his measure jumping the last but the winner, who had led in the straight, battled back for a head victory.
Jockey Mark Enright, who earned his first winner over jumps aboard the John Nicholson-trained Great Oak in 2012, guided the trainer’s Well Tuned to a smooth success in the Mares’ Beginners’ Chase. A winner over hurdles on the corresponding card in 2014, she was never far off the pace, moved smoothly to the front leaving the backstraight, and pulled clear.
Cloyne trainer James Motherway was on the mark with Na Trachtalai Abu in the Ladbrokes Munster National 11th October Handicap Hurdle. Out the back for much of the trip, he was switched wide to mount a late challenge, and asserted late to deny Best Value.
“He’s keeping me ticking over for the summer,” said Motherway. “He’s a horse that has to be dropped in. Derek (O’Connor) said he may have got there a bit soon, but he had enough up his sleeve to get by the leader.
“If we could get another win over hurdles this summer I’d be delighted. He jumps a fence like a buck, so he’ll have a career as a good-ground chaser next year.”