Killenaule trainer Martin Hassett enjoyed a double on today’s card in Clonmel, and it was his diminutive mare Mary Frances who stole the show, taking the featured Jim Strang & Sons Kilsheelan (Peugeot) Hurdle.
As game as they come, she was in vaunted company this time, taking on Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint, but proved up to the task.
With her usual accuracy at her hurdles and a willingness to give everything every time she races, she moved by Burrows Saint before the turn for home for the final time and immediately had the favourite in trouble.
Rachael Blackmore sent her away up the straight and she raced on to a wide-margin success.
“I’m delighted for John (O’Mahony, owner) because they had some misfortune, and Mary Frances is named after his mother,” said Hassett.
“I’m delighted for the family as this is a big boost for them.
“We are mad to get black-type for her, but all those mares’ races are over two and a half miles. There are no three-mile races unless she takes on the geldings — unless she goes over fences.
“God only knows what she’ll get after today, but if it was really soft, I wouldn’t mind going back for the Galmoy Hurdle again.”
No Grey Area’s had given Hassett the first leg of his 26.5-1 double when taking the Powerstown Handicap Hurdle under Pa King.
Klassy Kay travelled a little better than the winner as they turned for home but the Hassett runner was better over the last and pulled away well in the closing stages to win with authority from Chalky White, who got up in the closing stages to snatch second place.
“It is no secret we think a lot of this horse,” said the winning trainer. “He raced freely in bumpers and did so again, but they went handy, which helped. We got offers to sell him last year, but we said we’d sit and suffer, and I know we’ll be proved right.”
Some of the leaps which Epson Du Houx produced in the Clonmel Racecourse Supporters’ Club Beginners’ Chase would not be out of place in the puissance at the Dublin Horse Show but, despite his exuberance, he kept more than enough in the locker to justify favouritism for Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead.
It was his second win at this venue, having also won his maiden hurdle here.
Notice To Close landed quite a gamble when winning a beginners’ chase in Cork on his chasing debut and he followed up with a plucky performance in the ClonmelRaces.ie Novice Handicap Chase.
Seamus Neville’s runner was not certain to appreciate the drop in trip, but Brian Hayes rode a positive race aboard the grey. He looked in trouble turning for home but picked up again to see off favourite Golden Jewel and Mister Fogpatches with a nice bit to spare.
“He’s an exciting sort for staying handicap chases,” said Hayes, whose rich vein of form continues. “He’s a real tough horse. He won last week in Cork, where he had a hard race, and in fairness to him the pulled out again today and did the same.”
Philip Fenton won a maiden hurdle on Tuesday at Limerick and added another when Stand Off justified heavy support in the Irish Racing Fundraiser For Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin In Memory Of Pat Smullen Maiden Hurdle.
In front rank throughout, he looked in real trouble when the gambled-on Awesome Shirocco (14-1 to 11-2) went to the front two out. The latter traded almost 1-7 in running but Stand Off was back on terms over the last and picked up again to win a shade cosily.
Unsurprisingly, the winning trainer signalled a step up in trip would be on the agenda for the winner.
“I felt if he got into a battle that he might come out on top because he stays well and will get further than two miles,” said Fenton. “We’ll more than likely look for a handicap next, and I don’t think he really wants the ground that heavy. Hurdling is all bit of practice on the way to jumping a fence.”
Crack On Corrie was an easy winner of the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle for Willie Austin and Danny Hand.
With a win record of one from 34 coming into the race, she was not scoring out of turn but, to be fair, her recent efforts were good, she did everything right this time, and was a thoroughly deserving winner.
Pepite De Belle ran out a game winner of the Next Meeting Thursday January 7 Maiden Hurdle.
Jordan Gainford bided his time aboard Sam Curling’s five-year-old before producing him with a well-timed run to see off two-time bumper winner Eilise’s A Lady and favourite Capodanno.