The former Grade One-winning hurdler had won only once since late 2014 and isn’t the easiest of rides but Russell coaxed a seventh career victory out of the easy-to-back nine-year-old. The well-backed Karalee set off in front, but Russell made a smart move across the bottom of the track and took a narrow lead into the straight.
The odds-on favourite came back for more and Knockraha Pylon also mounted a challenge in the straight, but few results are going against Russell right now and again he was in no mood to be denied. Under a strong drive his mount managed to fend off the challenge of Karalee by a little over a length.
“The horse is a bit of a monkey but is coming back to form and Davy is riding out of his skin,” said Elliott’s assistant, Davy Condon.
“It was a great ride and it was a good opportunity for him. The horse is coming to himself now and had a great run behind Jezki the last day. Hopefully there will be another race like that for him soon.”
Elliott completed a double when well-backed odds-on favourite Black Tears took the finale, the Racing Home For Easter Festival Mares’ Bumper, in the hands of Lisa O’Neill.
“She would have learned loads from the first day,” said Condon. “She was very green and Lisa said that, even today, it did her no harm that her run got a bit delayed and she got a lead into the straight. She said she was still a bit green when she got to the front.
“But I’d say they’re too good fillies – Jessie’s (Barrington Court) isn’t too bad either. They pulled 10 lengths clear of the third. Gordon reckons that if she’s okay after this she’ll go for the hundred-grand race in Fairyhouse and then will go out on her summer holidays. She’ll make a nice hurdler next year.”
As in the feature, Elliott and Willie Mullins fought out the finish to the UCC Goes Racing Maiden Hurdle but this time it was Mullins who came out on top, with the Paul Townend-ridden Antey. The 4-9 chance made all the running but had to be ridden right out to hold off the attention of the long-absent Last Minute Man.
“We thought he’d have won his maiden before now and he has disappointed us, but we had fitness and experience on our side today,” said Townend. “He’d probably be better going the other way around, and would prefer better ground, but he has won his maiden now.”
The Tom Mullins-trained Cristal Icon ran out a very easy winner of the opening race, the CITSU Fillies’ Maiden Hurdle. While still showing her tendency to be keen, she moved up stylishly to challenge in the straight, and readily moved clear from the second-last to win by 17 lengths for the trainer’s son, David.
Said the winning trainer: “She’s a grand filly. She has strengthened up an awful lot since last year on the flat. She was just too weak. She’s really taken to jumping, she loves it – which I was a little surprised at.
“She’s not a novice for next year, which is the only sting in the tail,” he added, laughing. “We’ll see how she comes out of it, but there might be something in Punchestown for her, and she’ll definitely go back on the flat.”
The market spoke very much in favour of Pound A Stroke in the CIT Raise And Give Handicap Hurdle and the top weight duly obliged for Eoin McCarthy and jockey Kevin Brouder. The six-year-old set out to make all but looked in real trouble when I’m Serious ranged upsides in the straight. Much to the well-backed 13-8 favourite’s credit, he battled on gamely and reasserted after the last to win by half a length.
The Tom Nagle-trained Danse Away, a winner on Tuesday in Clonmel, carried a mandatory 6lb penalty to victory in the CIT Cream Of The Crop Handicap Hurdle. Barry O’Neill had the 6-4 favourite prominent from the outset and he travelled strongly to lead in the straight before picking up well to hold off the challenge of Time And Times.
After Willie and Tom’s earlier winners, there was almost a Mullins-family treble when Tony’s Shannak went very close in the UCC Don’t Step On The Crest Handicap Hurdle. But local trainer John Joe Walsh spoiled the party with Shower Cross, who made it two wins in his last three starts with a game effort under Ambrose McCurtin.
Stepping up to three miles, having won over two and a half and been second to Knockraha Pylon over two, he stayed on really well to deny Shannak, who had travelled well through the race.
“He’s a good stayer and stayed at it well, but it was a close race,” said Walsh. “He jumps well and should be better when the ground dries a little bit. It was tough going there and he’d want a rest, but we’ll look for something in a month’s time.”