The feature at Thurles was the Grade 3 Markaye Contracts Ltd Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle, won in tremendous fashion by Grand Paradis, but the undercard provided a special moment for Piltown, Co Kilkenny trainer David O’Brien as Cusp Of Carabelli followed up Minx Tiara’s success to give him the first double of his training career.
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Novice Chase was weakened by the absence of likely favourite Waitnsee, but there was plenty to like about the winning performance of Minx Tiara. The chasing debutant, ridden by Sean Flanagan, was well supported to belie her lack of experience, and she duly travelled with zest and coasted home clear of Imitation Game, who won a point to point on her previous start.
“Everything went well, she jumped well, and she loves that kind of ground,” said O’Brien, of the mare who was bought for €1,000 in late 2018. “We schooled her in the Curragh, and she ran in a point to point – and was very unlucky that day. She’s after paying us back well – she’s after winning three. She’s not over-big, but Sean said she has loads of scope.
“I suppose we’ll look for something similar, get another few runs into her, and then hopefully look for black-type.”
Flanagan was also in the saddle when Cusp Of Carabelli took the We’re In This Together Handicap Chase. Winning for the fifth time in his career, he took up the running in the straight and put his head down to win a protracted battle with Rocky’s Silver.
“I feel like a proper trainer now,” joked O’Brien. “That was lovely. “I’m delighted for the Grants (owners). These two are cheap horses – Minx Tiara cost €1,000 and he cost €900 - but they’re after having great fun with them.”
Grand Paradis showed himself to be a tremendously progressive horse when winning the feature for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy. The grey, who won his maiden just 17 days previously, was weak in the market in light of support for Fighter Allen and West Cork Wildway. However, he proved to be in a different league on this occasion.
Kennedy took his time aboard the imposing five-year-old, eased up to challenge early in the straight and stretched right away in the manner of a smart prospect. Runner-up Goodbye Someday ran a fine race on his first start for four months, particularly as the ground was more testing than ideal and he took no hiding place.
“I’m delighted with him,” said the winning jockey. “He has improved from his maiden hurdle win. He is very good to jump, is a lovely horse and seems to have a good future ahead of him. He is a big chaser in the making and whatever he does over hurdles will be a bonus.”
The winner was promoted to favouritism for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, though he is yet to be given an official handicap mark. He beat a 140 horse by a 13 lengths and, while there are numerous reasons not to take the form literally, he is clearly well above average and his opening mark will be interesting. To qualify for the aforementioned Cheltenham race, he will have to be rated 145 or lower in Britain.
The win completed a double for Elliott, who took the Thurles Racecourse Hunters Chase with former American Grand National (Hurdle) and Grade 1 runner-up in Ireland Jury Duty, ridden by Jamie Codd. Favourite Winged Leader was challenging when falling at the last, leaving Jury Duty to beat the staying-on Stand Up And Fight.
Codd went on to complete a first and last-race double when getting the Michael Grassick-trained Mollys Glory up in the final stride to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Bumper. Runner-up Premier Queen cut the final corner and poached an extra advantage but jinked at the path crossing in the straight and perhaps that cost her that miniscule margin he was beaten.
The winner was having her first start for Grassick, and looks the type to progress.