Clonmel’s six-race hurdle card proved a profitable one for favourite backers, with odds-on chances obliging in the first three races, but the feature event, the www.grahamnorris.com Memorial Handicap Hurdle, went to one of the outsiders, Time For Mabel.
Trained by Edward O’Grady, whose horses continue in great form, the seven-year-old was returning to hurdling following a couple of good runs on the Flat and proved his stamina for the three-mile trip with a gutsy effort under Paul Townend.
In third place most of the way, he raced keenly for much of the journey but was still going quite well coming down the hill for the final time.
Townend switched inside to make his challenge between the last two obstacles, and his mount, a 12-1 chance, gave generously in the finish to hold Biddy The Boss by a length.
“I think horse and owner get honours for perseverance — and maybe the trainer too,” said O’Grady. “Obviously three miles was a shot in the dark, but the ground seemed to come up right for him today. We think he has ability but keeps a bit to himself.
“It was an uncompetitive race, which helped him, but it was nice to win and he did it nicely. I hope he will jump a fence in time too.”
Kilbarry Way set the ball rolling for favourite backers when taking the opening race, the Cahir Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.
The daughter of Getaway had some smart form in bumpers and she built on the promise of her recent hurdling debut with a smooth success.
While her jumping showed inexperience, she was always travelling best, and Rachael Blackmore pushed her clear from the back of the second-last to win readily.
Ozzie’s Way certainly wasn’t winning out of turn when justifying odds of 8-11 in the second race, the Kilsheelan Maiden Hurdle. Trainer-jockey Denis Hogan was keen to make the most of the weight he received from market rival Markhan, sending his mount to the front from the outset.
The latter travelled strongly and looked a real danger as they raced down the hill for the final time, but Ozzie’s Way found plenty to keep him at bay.
Hogan said: “I’m thrilled to get a winner for (owner) Tim Conroy. He’s been with me from the start and this is his first track winner with me.
“I’ve had loads placed and a few point-to-point winners, and you won’t find a better man to train for.
“The horse wasn’t winning out of form. He’s rated 111 and probably ran to that there. I was conscious of the other horse (Markhan) having a gear or two, so I was stepping on it from the top of the hill. If the weather breaks he’ll probably go on a holiday and we’ll target one of those rated novice hurdles in the spring.”
Joseph O’Brien chipped in with the third of the odds-on favourites to oblige, and it was with another, Jack Dillinger, who was not winning out of turn. It was also a welcome winner for jockey JJ Slevin, who was without a winner since the middle of July, having been sidelined since the Galway festival until his return late last month.
“That’s my first winner for Michael (O’Flynn) and Stanley (Watson) and I’m delighted for them,” said O’Brien.
“JJ gave him a lovely ride. He anchored him in front because he’s not the most straightforward horse in the world. I think he’ll get some confidence from that, having not won before.”
Fitting, perhaps, that the Robert Tyner-trained Dontdooddson was the horse to prevent a sequence of four odds-on winning favourites in a row by taking the Sky Sports Racing Launching In 2019 Handicap Hurdle at the expense of Eight And Bob.
Under a confident ride by 21-year-old Jordan Canavan, for whom it was a first victory in Ireland to add to his one in Britain, he travelled sweetly and kept on well to beat the favourite by a length.
Of the winning jockey, Mary Tyner said: “He got a bad fall in Galway. He was coming to us before that but the fall delayed that. He’s with us a couple of months and has been doing well, and the opportunity came up to ride this horse — he only got passed to return last week.
“The horse did it well. He seems to run well on nice ground, but he’ll go on easier ground as well. And I’d say he’ll be versatile enough and go over fences soon.”
Trainer Vincent Halley took the finale, the Powerstown Demesne Qualified Riders’ Handicap Hurdle, with Tintown Robin, for which it was a second success at the track.
Barry O’Neill gave him a patient ride and he picked up well to win going away.