Veteran sprinter Russian Soul was registering his sixth win on the polytrack when getting home by a head from English import Yuften, who was making his debut for Johnny Murtagh, in the featured BWG Foods Race over six furlongs..
“He loves it around here and has been a great servant — he owes us nothing,” declared Halford.
“We took him to Lingfield, but five furlongs was a bit quick for him.”
Hat Alnasar, a tough and progressive four-year-old, also notched his sixth win at Dundalk when making all in the Brubakers Dundalk Handicap and holding off last year’s Irish Lincoln runner-up Aussie Valentine by a half-length.
“He just keeps improving and has done us proud over the winter,” said Halford. “He got it handy enough in front and sees out the mile well. He loves it here and is so straight-forward.”
Backed into 4/6 favouritism, Mulligatawny, ridden for Jessica Harrington by Fran Berry, proved an emphatic winner of the one-mile maiden, scoring by two lengths from Zilbiyr.
“He had a very good run at Leopardstown last year and did well over the winter, so we thought we’d start him off early here, “ said Harrington. “The great thing is that he goes a mile, so I’m delighted.”
Formerly trained by Marco Botti and having her first run for Johnny Feane, 64-rated Midnitemudcrabs made all under Gary Halpin to win the opening median auction maiden.
Pat Smullen partnered 2/1 favourite All Body And Soul to victory in the finale for Curragh trainer Tracey Collins, sending punters home happy.
Earlier, Sean Flanagan received a timely, pre-Cheltenham boost when completing a double for trainer Harry Kelly on Edvardo and Twiss’s Hill in Limerick.
A winner at Navan in January before disappointing at Thurles, 13/8 favourite Edvardo defied top-weight in the McManus Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle, beating Mick The Jiver.
Flanagan said: “He was weak and immature last year and still raw enough. We probably ran him back too soon in Thurles, where he was too keen. So we gave him a break.”
The double was completed when Twiss’s Hill, left in front at the fifth by the fall of favourite Unic De Bersy and Bryan Cooper (sore but unscathed), proved best in the four-runner O’Kelly Brothers Demolition Novice Handicap Hurdle.
Oiche Mhaith Boy (Brian O’Connell) gave trainer Kieran Purcell a welcome change of luck when justifying 10/11 favouritism in the Irish Wire 4-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle.
And Routes Choice, built to be a chaser, clicked for the father and son combination of Philip and Luke Dempsey when landing the Frank Hogan Mercedes-Benz Mares Maiden Hurdle at the expense of Danali.
The winning trainer commented: “The extra trip suited her. We’ll keep her to mares races.
“She should make a nice chaser next season.”