The winter season in Thurles swung into gear yesterday and there was a familiar feel to proceedings.
There were two more winners for Joseph O’Brien to add to his rapidly-increasing tally, another for Pádraig Roche, who has made a terrific start to his training career, and the obligatory winner for Gordon Elliott.
Roche has enjoyed a great start to his training career since taking over from his father, Christy, and Bay Hill became his fourth winner in the past fortnight when justifying heavy support and surviving a last-flight mistake and a stewards’ enquiry in the Two-Mile Borris Handicap Hurdle.
The grey moved up well to take the lead between the final two flights but landed flat-footed at the back of the last, opening the door for Benny In Milan to mount a serious challenge.
The latter looked to have the momentum on the run to the line, but Bay Hill dug deep for jockey Liam Gilligan and put his head down where it mattered most.
“That’s his eighth win — he’s a great horse,” Roche said.
“He did well because when he made the mistake at the last, I thought he was beaten. He’s a summer horse and that’s his level but we’ll keep going so long as the ground is good.
“Liam is riding very well and his 7lbs claim made all the difference.”
Jaunty Thor secured his second win of the week by taking the Littleton Handicap Chase for Gordon Elliott, Davy Russell, and the Call It What You Like Syndicate.
The eight-year-old, a winner on Tuesday at Fairyhouse, made his debut for his current yard in September and on this, his seventh run since joining the team, he was seeking a fourth victory.
A couple of slow jumps at the first two obstacles resulted in him sitting a little off the pace but that proved a great place to be as they seemed to go quite quick up front.
As they approached the third-last, the 5-2 favourite was asked to close up and did so with little fuss.
The always prominent Conduct Yourself battled on gamely but Jaunty Thor asserted over the last and always looked to be holding the staying-on Fairymount Boy.
Another quick run is on the cards for the winner.
“The trip wasn’t ideal — he was flat out early — but the further they went the better he went,” said Elliott.
He has been a great servant. He’s in at Ayr next week so it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world if he were to go there.
Joseph O’Brien’s winners came in the last two races, the first of which ended a previously frustrating sequence for Los Alamos.
Without a win in 10 runs since his bumper success in May 2017, he appreciated the step up to more than two and three-quarter miles and, ridden by JJ Slevin, he won the Thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle with a little more comfort than the half-length margin might suggest.
Silk And Sand completed the quick double for O’Brien when taking the Toboradora Bumper.
Third on her recent debut, she travelled well this time and was going best when challenging in the straight. Under a fine ride by Derek O’Connor, she asserted late to beat odds-on favourite Final List, who lost little in defeat as he seemed unsuited by the steady gallop.
D’bru Na Boinne made a successful first start for Ross O’Sullivan when taking the opening race, the Thurles Beginners Chase.
The 7-1 chance raced prominently and jumped well most of the way but looked in trouble as Can’t Be Done mounted a challenge on the turn for home.
Despite a mistake at the second-last he remained in contention and, under a strong ride by Andy Lynch, pulled out extra to reassert close home.
There was a great finish to the Templemore Mares’ Maiden Hurdle, in which victory went to the Andrew Lynch-trained Under Surveillance.
All the money was for Tara Dylan, who was backed from an overnight high of 11-4 to 5-6, but the winner was well-placed just behind the pace for most of the race and responded well to Keith Donoghue’s pressure to beat running-on 50-1 chance Tillys Delight by half a length with the gambled-on favourite a head further back.
“I thought she’d win when she was brought down the last day at Roscommon, but we got our turn now,” said Lynch.
“Ideally she wants a longer trip. She’ll probably get a break and I’ll bring her back in spring.”
Rain In Spain secured his third victory since August when taking the Ballagh Mares’ Handicap Hurdle for trainer Charles O’Brien and jockey Paul Townend.
One of three 6-1 co-favourites, she moved up to challenge Lockeen Girl between the last two hurdles, led over the last and kept on well to score with a nice bit in hand.