Disappointing in Ballinrobe last time, the French-bred five-year-old scored convincingly from newcomer Amschel, with the Charles Byrnes-trained Waterville Dancer, backed from 7/2 to 10/11 favourite, only third.
“He was entitled to win on his Naas form, but he just about handled the track,” said Russell. “He made a couple of small mistakes, but, overall, jumps great. I’m sure Gordon will run him away for the summer and he’ll find his place.”
The season opened with a win for Heroesandvillains in the Follow Kilbeggan On Facebook Maiden Hurdle, as the Noel Meade-trained Beneficial gelding, ridden by stable-jockey Sean Flanagan, got the better of fellow 3/1 joint-favourite Hugo N Taz.
“I didn’t think we’d be coming to Kilbeggan with him, but, for some reason, he just went off in the spring and we decided to give him some time, but he’s a nice horse, a real chaser in the making,” said Meade. “His owner has had some desperate luck recently and we gave a lot of money for this horse, so it’s great that he’s won.”
Meade and Flanagan looked set to complete a double when, after a pace-forcing duel with favourite Gangster, Kagney edged ahead between the last two fences in the Racing Again Friday 11th May Beginners Chase.
However, he was mastered on the run-in and, ultimately, well beaten by the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained Camlann, delivered late by Danny Mullins to cause a 16/1 shock on his fencing debut.
“He’s a 126 horse over hurdles and is very consistent,” said Hanlon. “He jumped brilliantly and looks a nice novice for the summer.
“They cut each other’s throats up front and Danny just sat, to get him home. He said they were going a million down the back. We’ve had a few point-to-point winners, but a horrible run on the track, so this winner was badly needed.”
Gavin Cromwell took the training honours, thanks to a double in the handicap hurdles, as Callthebarman followed-up a recent win at Huntingdon by justifying 7/4 favouritism in the Summer Party Pack Handicap Hurdle before Running In Heels, ridden by Andrew Lynch, ran out an emphatic 8/1 winner of the Mullingar Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles.
“He’s a half-brother to Jer’s Girl and is a grand little horse,” said Cromwell after Callthebarman’s defeat of Visioman. “We’re making use of his four-year-old allowance at the minute and he’s a strong fellow. He’ll run away for the summer.”
Confidently handled, Running In Heels looked a winner throughout the final circuit of the three-mile handicap and, after his five-and-a-half-lengths win over top-weight Brosna George, Cromwell explained: “I bought her for £2,500 at Doncaster in January, but I had no owner and it dawned on me that she would be ideal for a ladies syndicate. My wife Kiva got on to some of her friends and it was all organised. There are 20 involved.
“This mare wants summer ground and will jump a fence, so they should have plenty of fun with her.”
In the closest finish of the day, the Andrew McNamara-trained Take The Cash (Dillon Maxwell) pipped Don’t Let Go (Ricky Doyle) in the www.kilbegganraces.com Handicap Chase.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins enjoyed no luck with his first runner of the new campaign, as 8/13 favourite Stay Humble could finish only third in the bumper behind the Denis Hogan-trained Macgiloney, produced in the straight by Barry O’Neill to foil the Elliott-trained Dinons.