A huge ante-post gamble on Tony Martin’s Psycho was foiled by 50-1 outsider Penny’s Bill in a dramatic renewal of the Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Original top-weight Newmill was withdrawn on the morning of the race after he was found coughing in his stable.
As a result, because of a new rule only used in Ireland, the weights rose 8lb to leave Kirbybroguelantern carrying 11st 10lb, the weight Newmill should have carried.
This meant that Liz Doyle’s Penny’s Bill, originally 6lb out of the handicap, could now carry 9st 12lb, making the winner effectively 6lb better off with Psycho.
And as he held off the favourite by only a head under a terrific ride by Sean Flanagan, those who backed the runner-up at fancy prices could feel aggrieved.
“That’s by far my biggest win,” said Doyle.
“I’ve been struggling with the health of the horses recently and had very few runners lately, but this horse ran well here at Christmas and I felt if he came on from that he’d be competitive.
“The weights going up after Newmill came out really helped us as we were originally 6lb out of the handicap.
“I used to work for Pat Hughes who won it twice and it gives a great chance for a relatively ordinary horse to win a big pot.”
For Flanagan the win could not have come at a better time as he is just about to lose his 3lb claim.
It also meant he could lay to rest the ghosts of 12 months ago when he finished second on Brave Right.
“I came here last year with a great chance and some people said I kicked too soon but I think I just got collared,” said Flanagan.
“This fella had never been better and I thought he had a chance of finishing in the first six.
“I held onto him for as long as I could but I had no choice but to go when I did and when he winged the last it was a great feeling – but Newmill coming out definitely helped us win the race.
“This has come at the right time because I’ve just got three winners left before I lose my claim and it might help me keep the ball rolling.”
Dessie Hughes’ Schindlers Hunt (16-1) bounced back to form in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
Twice a Grade One winner in his novice chase days, the nine-year-old had appeared a light of his former self recently but dropped into handicap company he beat Kilcrea Castle by four lengths with favourite Finger Onthe Pulse in third.
“He’d been running well over two miles last year so we stuck with it but we put him up in trip today and it’s nice to see he gets it and he might even stay three miles,” said Hughes of the Paddy Flood-ridden winner.
“He appreciates good ground. He’s close to being a Grade One horse and he has an entry for the Ryanair.”
The winner was cut to 20-1 from 40s for the Ryanair Chase by Victor Chandler, while William Hill go just 16s from 33s.
Charles Byrnes’ Merchent Paddy took the step up to Grade Two company in his stride in the Paddy Fitzpatrick Memorial Novice Chase.
Won last year by Glencove Marina, this looked a sub-standard renewal but the 2-1 chance could do no more than win on the bridle.
“I felt he wanted better ground. He stays a bit better on better ground and he might get three miles on good ground,” said Byrnes.
“He’ll be entered for the RSA Chase and probably the four-miler but being realistic this was not the greatest Grade Two and we won’t get carried away.”
His pilot Davy Russell added: “Heavy ground was a worry last week and my confidence grew when I got here and found the ground on the good side. That helped my horse and he has plenty of experience.”
He was given a 25-1 quote for the RSA Chase by Cashmans.
Dermot Weld’s Majestic Concorde (7-2) added a win over fences to his C.V. to go with his victories over hurdles and on the level.
Weld was not getting carried away after his victory in the Leopardstown Annual Badge Beginners Chase though, despite a quote of 25-1 for the Arkle by Cashmans.
Weld said: “He’s really a good ground horse and we have no definite plans at the moment for him.
“It’s nice for him to win first time over fences and to see him do it well.”
Weld was denied a double in the bumper when his Elegant Concorde was worn down close home by Tornedo Shay, trained by Thomond O’Mara, who said: “He’ll go straight to the Cheltenham bumper.
“He’s as good a horse as I’ve ever had, he goes on any ground and he was a bit green when he got there today but believe me he’s a really good horse.”
He was give a 25-1 quote by William Hill for the Champion Bumper while Cashmans go 33-1.
Francis Flood’s P’tit Fute ran out an easy winner of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) under Mark Walsh and is another who is Cheltenham-bound.