Since sporting blinkers for the first time, he has won twice on the flat, including the Connacht Hotel QR Race at the Galway Festival, and, with the same headgear applied over hurdles, he turned what should have been a very competitive race into a procession.
David Mullins sent the Windsor Knot gelding to the front before the second, asked him to go clear, and, after letting the field close up going to the second-last, sent him on again to record an emphatic success.
“I have been dreaming about seeing one of mine coming up the hill in Cheltenham, and this could be the horse,” said thrilled winning trainer Joseph Murphy, who has the Greatwood Hurdle at the November meeting in the Cotswolds at the forefront of his mind. The Irish Cesarewitch could also be on the agenda.
“I thought he would need the run today, as he didn’t have the best of preps,” he added. “He’s so lazy at home, I thought he would come on a lot for the run. But he’s a nice horse going forward. He’s a horse that loves racing, but one you can’t rush.”
Testing conditions have made finding winners very difficult for punters, and one rider commented, following the first race, that it was a like a gluepot. On all known form that race, the Jet O’Carroll Memorial EBF Maiden, looked a match between Ensign and Cascavelle, and, as it transpired, there was very little between the pair at the line.
However, they had to settle for third and fourth place respectively, as newcomers Escape Clause and Tommy Hallinan coped best with the conditions, and the former proved superior as he raced home comfortably clear under Colm O’Donoghue.
The market spoke strongly in favour of debutant Marvellous Ways in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Fillies’ Maiden, but her effort petered out before the turn for home, and it was the once-raced Galkina, trained by Tommy Stack, from nearby Moyvane, who proved most resolute, under Wayne Lordan.
The winner was popular in the morning markets, but drifted late to return a starting price of 11-2. That proved to be the first leg of a 28.25-1 double for Lordan, who took the following race on the Harry Rogers-trained Gentil J (7-2), who also drifted late on having been popular in the early markets. She got on top very late to beat End Play in the fillies’ handicap.
“She’s a very tough filly for her size and, while she handles soft ground, we weren’t sure if she’d cope with these conditions,” said Rogers. “But we thought that if she did she would probably win. Hopefully there’ll be another day in her.”
Stamp Of Authority travelled best in the Brandon Hotel Handicap and, under a fine ride by 10lb claimer Andrew Breslin, became the first leg of an across-the-cards double for trainer Tom McCourt, whose brace was completed by My Good Brother in the first race at Laytown.
“It was trainer error, and I’ve learned my lesson. The fast ground and the fast track didn’t suit him,” said Henry De Bromhead, after Three Stars left behind the disappointment of his chasing debut at Tramore when racing home clear under Davy Russell to beat easy-to-back favourite Ball D’Arc in the John F McGuire Beginners’ Chase.
“It’s great to get his chasing career back on track. He did it really nicely here,” added De Bromhead. “This was the main plan but we thought that if he won this we would go for the two-mile-two chase at Punchestown on October 13. His jumping will get more fluent with experience.”
With the weight just below what Patrick Mullins can do, Richard Deegan was drafted in to partner debutant Bargy Lady in the bumper, and he proved a most able deputy as he rode the Willie Mullins-trained filly to a wide-margin success.
Reminiscent of the performance of stablemate Augusta Kate, who also made a winning debut at this meeting, in 2015, she travelled strongly from the outset, and when Deegan let out an inch of rein she filled the eye as she sprinted clear to score as she liked.
Her dam was a winner over hurdles in France, while her full brother, Compadre, was sold for €220,000 prior to making a winning bumper debut for Jonjo O’Neill, while half-brother Sizing Tennessee also won twice in this sphere, and currently holds a hurdle rating of 138. She looks a filly of considerable promise for her owners, the Oakroom Racing Club.