Only five went to post for the Colm Quinn BMW Listed Novice Hurdle which opened the card on day two of the Galway Festival, and yet only a quarter of a point separated the first three in the betting.
Despite a significant drift, the Willie Mullins-trained Fast Buck just held on to favouritism, and he justified his position with a performance which suggested we could have been looking at a future staying chaser of considerable ability.
Paul Townend, bidding to match the day one exploits of his sister, Jody, was in the saddle and he set out to make every yard.
Quantatmental kept him company much of the way, with Fine Brunello not far behind, but some quick jumping kept Fast Buck in control, and he picked up well in the straight to hold off the final challenger, Turnpike Trip.
Townend said: “We got into a lovely rhythm in front, he jumped really well, and did it nicely. He’s had a couple of runs, jumping very well, and it’s nice that he’s putting everything together now.
“It looked a hot race on paper — Charles’ horse impressed me when he beat me at Cork, and I thought he might be the biggest danger, while Fine Brunello had the allowances — but my horse did it well.
“When I asked him to pick up on the hill, he did for me. I think he will make up into an even nicer chaser.”
Zero Ten was very heavily backed to make a winning debut over fences in the Latin Quarter Beginners’ Chase and, while he was well on top at the end thanks to his undoubted class, it was a performance which left some room for improvement in the jumping department.
To be fair to the 142-rated hurdler, he improved as the race unfolded and made two fine leaps over the last couple of obstacles before picking up again on the flat to see off his challengers.
Ridden by David Mullins, for the Mee family and trainer Emmet Mullins, it was a second winner at this year’s meeting, and also back to back wins in this race, following St Stephens Green’s success 12 months ago.
The winning trainer said: “It’s a great starting point for his season to go novice chasing and hopefully we can go on to bigger and better things. He was a bit cautious at a few of the fences, but it was his first run over them, and you’d expect that.
“He’s well able to jump, he’s a little bit of a tricky horse but when he puts his mind to it, he can get the job done. The further he went the better he was going.”
Attendance was 14,596, which was down on the same day last year, when 15,232 people passed through the gates. Against that, bookmaker turnover held up very well, with €864,108, which was marginally up on last year’s figure, but the Tote was considerably down, from €751,012 12 months ago to €556,721.