The winner was exploiting a mark 29lbs lower over hurdles than over fences, and made it all look quite straightforward, as he travelled smoothly throughout and only had to be shaken up to go clear to the line.
O’Grady, who took the valuable Novice Handicap Chase final on Sunday at Navan, with the impressive Mick The Jiver said: “He settled well today, jumped well and stayed the three miles well. I think it happened a bit easier for him today (than on his last run over hurdles), he may have been taken off his feet the last day.
“If the ground dries up he probably won’t run again soon, but if there’s still juice in the ground in a month’s time we’ll find something for him.”
If post-race comments of trainer Mick Winters are a fair guide, the owners of the winner of the opening race, the CITSU Maiden Hurdle, are well named.
Shes Flat Tothemat, backed from an overnight high of 5-1 to an SP of 7-4, had little trouble accounting for odds-on favourite Leomar, much to the delight of the Going Stone Mad Syndicate.
“They’d be mad bastards, these fellas, they’d be off their trolleys, and you can quote me on that,” explained Winters, in his own inimitably affectionate way.
“I told them this mare would probably win a point-to-point and they could sell away and get good money, and they said the next one might be no good, we don’t care, we only want to win races.
“She had a great run in Wexford, beaten only four lengths, on a tight track. She had no work since, so you were sticking your head on the block, but I think these auld fellas, you couldn’t stop them going mad. It’s great to get a win on the board for them.”
After the defeat of Leomar, there was a boost for odds-on backers when Bonbon Au Miel took the second race, the UCC Horse Racing Society Hurdle, but they were made to sweat before the result of a tight photo was announced.
Even winning rider Ruby Walsh was shocked to get the verdict, admitting: “It was a pleasant surprise, but I nearly fell off him when they called ‘three’. He did rally in the last 50 yards, but I was full sure I was beaten.”
While pleased to get the victory, Walsh admitted this performance wasn’t to the same level as the horse’s first for Mullins, in which he finished a close second to Galway Hurdle runner-up Hidden Cyclone.
“I don’t know (how good he is),” added Walsh. “He was so long off the track you’d be hoping he’d keep improving, but he’s probably run 10lbs worse than he ran at Leopardstown. He won anyway, and I’ll take that — we won’t give it back.”
Morning support for Sunset Sadie for the CIT Raise And Give Handicap Hurdle proved shrewd, as the mare was brought through late by jockey Eoin O’Connell to land the spoils aboard the mare trained by his father, Eamonn.
Kaiser Black had little trouble justifying odds of 4-6 in the UCC Goes Racing Maiden Hurdle, in the hands of Davy Russell.
A promising sort, who had run a fine race in defeat in a Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle on his previous outing, on this occasion he travelled best from the outset, and eased clear up the straight to win, un-extended, by 14 lengths, from Macs Legend.
Winning trainer Pat Doyle said: “His run in Leopardstown was very good, and his run in Naas was very good, unfortunately he had one blip in the middle, when he chipped a stifle in Limerick. He’s a very nice horse, and a very big horse — a chaser in the making. I’d be disappointed if he had been beaten today.
“I’ll probably give him one more run, I think there’s a winners’ of one at Punchestown, and he’ll go chasing next season.”
And Doyle was quick to pass on some of the praise to HRI, for a fortuitous phonecall which made up his mind to run the horse. “I have to thank HRI as I hadn’t him declared, and they rang me at ten past ten yesterday morning to say there was only four declared, so I declared him then,” explained Doyle.
“Other than that, I wouldn’t have ran him here, as I was worried about the ground. I thought it was going to be the inside track, which is very tight and rides quicker than the outside track. It was a nice call from them.”
Declan McNamara’s Time And Times almost threw away the CIT Cream Of The Crop Qualified Riders’ Handicap Hurdle with a bad mistake at the final flight, but jockey Johnny Barry galvanised his mount for a renewed effort, which gained reward at the expense of Conna Cross.
Catwalk King continued the good week of Liz Lalor, who recorded her first double as a trainer on Tuesday at Clonmel, but was back on top to steer Liz Doyle’s gelding to a wide-margin success in the bumper.