Having only returned to action on Monday after recovering from a broken collarbone, Jack Kennedy delivered a double on Music Drive and Frontal Assault for Gordon Elliott in Galway on Tuesday.
Hurdling debutant and 2-5 shot Music Drive, eighth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, produced a workmanlike performance to take the Tote Always SP Or Better At Galway Maiden Hurdle.
David Barnard’s Muhtathir gelding forged clear from the final flight to beat longshot Tomas O Maille by two and three-quarter lengths, prompting his trainer Gordon Elliott to comment: “Having Jack back is number one priority — he’s brilliant. On form, this horse was entitled to win, but I thought he looked big in the ring and Jack said he’d come on a lot from it. We’ll take small steps with him, but he might head for Cheltenham in three weeks.”
The Cullentra double was completed when Irish Grand National runner-up Frontal Assault made a successful return to action in the Mongey Communications Chase, staying on powerfully to beat front-runner Darrens Hope by four and a half lengths.
“He was second in an Irish National, so he was entitled to win, but I thought he’d need the run,” said Elliott. “The race fell apart a bit, but Jack was positive on him — he’s come back where he left off — and he won well. Limerick (for the Munster National) would be a bit sharp for him, so he’ll go straight to Navan for the Troytown now.”
Owner Annette Mee and Galway Plate-winning trainer ‘Shark’ Hanlon are no strangers to success at Ballybrit. And their Hallowed Star proved his liking for the track when landing the Race In Pink Raceday Sunday 30th October Beginners Chase in great style under Danny Mullins.
Recording his third win in Galway, the 7-4 favourite made every yard of the running and drew clear to beat Caesar Rock by 19 lengths.
“He was good and his jumping came together compared to the first day,” stated Hanlon. “He loves Galway and so do his owners. I suppose we’ll keep him going until Christmas before he gets a break. He’ll have to go up in trip and grade and we’ll try him in some of the good novice races. If he doesn’t measure up, he could always come back here next year for the Plate, I suppose.”
Noel Meade saddled his third winner in as many days when Affordable Fury (Pat Taaffe) proved a convincing winner of the bumper, at the expense of the Mullins-trained favourite Allibaba.
“I bought him in Cheltenham, after he won his point-to-point and he wasn’t a dear horse,” explained Meade. “He stays well and jumps well and goes through soft ground well. I’d say he’ll go jumping straight away.”
The new association of owner-trainer Barry Connell and 7lb claimer Michael O’Sullivan struck again when 11-8 favourite Hgranca De Thaix bolted-up from Pats Choice in the Ryans Cleaning Handicap Hurdle.
Having tracked the leaders, the progressive five-year-old, set for a hefty hike up the ratings, took command at the final flight and powered up the hill to triumph by 17 lengths.
Connell commented: “He had experience in handicap hurdles and we were pretty confident coming here, although we didn’t think he’d win like that. He did well over the summer and is a much stronger horse now. He’s only five, a real stayer and he’ll end up a three-mile horse. There’s a two-and-a-half mile novice handicap at Leopardstown at Christmas that might suit him and I’m not sure if he’ll run again before that.”
The featured Guinness Handicap Chase went to 9-4 favourite Jeremys Flame, the second leg of a double for Gavin Cromwell and Keith Donoghue, who stayed on dourly to deny front-running Kitty Galore.
The eight-year-old mare prevailed by two and a quarter lengths.
Cromwell explained: “We might let her take her chance in something like the Paddy Power (at Leopardstown) or the Plate here next year. She has plenty of placed black type, but I’d love to win one with her.”
The closest finish of the day came in the lowest-grade contest, the (80-95) Galway Handicap Hurdle which saw morning gamble Money Heist, first leg of the Cromwell/Donoghue double, backed into 5-4 favouritism, get up on the line, under a strong ride from Keith Donoghue (one-day whip ban), to pip Brandy Harbour by a nose, the pair pulling 12 lengths clear of the rest.
Robbie Geoghegan, rider of the runner-up, was handed a nine-day whip ban by the stewards.