Rachael Blackmore recorded her first success as a professional when getting 11-2 chance Most Honourable home in front by the narrowest of margins in the Woodrooff Handicap Hurdle last night at Clonmel track.
The young rider gave her mount a confident ride, was aggressive when there was a danger of her mount being squeezed up around the final bend, and brave when asking him at each of the last two hurdles.
The Shark Hanlon-trained winner, who cost €600, was upsides long-time leader Rock On Bach (50-1) over the last two and, under a fine drive by Blackmore, prevailed by a short head.
Blackmore, who turned professional on March 16 this year, said: “I can’t believe it. He was Andrew McNamara’s last winner, and now my first winner as a professional, so he’s a very special horse for everyone in the yard.”
Listen Dear got punters off to the perfect start when returning odds of 4-7 in the opening Mylerstown Maiden Hurdle. Ridden by 7lb claimer Niall Kelly for champion trainer Willie Mullins, the mare was in charge from the outset, clear turning for home, and stretched right away to win with plenty in hand.
Perfect Woman was easy to back all morning and afternoon, but attracted plenty of late support, which she justified with a comfortable victory in the Kilsheelan Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.
Trained by the ever-popular Mick Winters and ridden by Mikey Butler, she travelled well throughout, jumped to the front down the far side on the final circuit, and readily pulled clear of Table Tips.
Said Winters: “She’s been consistent, and I love horses like that – just being there, being competitive. Their turn will come if they stay sound. We were running her in soft ground, and maybe one or two days in heavy ground we thought she had to win because she does stay. Maybe we were getting it slightly wrong, but they have a great job done on the track here today.
“She’s from the family of (former Cathcart Chase winner) Second Schedual, and we’ll go for a mares’ chase with her next.”
John Joe Walsh was on the mark with High In The Clouds, who made light of a long lay-off with a clear-cut victory in the New Inn Opportunity Maiden Hurdle.
Odds-on when the race was first priced up, he drifted quite markedly, and eventually went off 9-4 joint-favourite with Coolfighter. As with Perfect Woman, he wasn’t without his supporters on track, and delivered in the style of a horse which could have more to give.
Said Walsh: “He’s a nice horse, and ran well when second to a good horse (Irish Bulletin) in Limerick at Christmas. The ground suited him, he jumps well, and we’ll look for a handicap hurdle now. He was out of action for a little while, so I hope he can improve a little bit on that run today.”
Winning rider Frank Hayes, 24, from Tipperary, said: “It was my first winner in Ireland, but I rode in France, had a couple of winners on the flat for Andrew Balding, and a couple over jumps for David Pipe. But, I decided to come home, and have been riding out for John Joe for the past year.”
Just days before the All-Ireland hurling final, former Kilkenny hurler Kieran Purcell ended a barren spell with the easy victory of You Can’t Catch Me in the Giantsgrave Handicap Hurdle, under Paddy Mangan.
“That was badly needed,” said Purcell. “He’s a nice horse, but promises more at home than he delivers on the track. He was alright today, though, and we might go for something similar at Listowel next.”
Asked if it would be as easy for Kilkenny on Sunday, Purcell replied emphatically: “Easier!”
Master Appeal, trained by John Kiely, followed up his narrow success at Tramore with a runaway victory in the Derrygrath Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, in the hands of Ger Fox.
“He’s improving a bit, likes these up-and-down tracks, and while he arrived there easily, tired a bit in the closing stages,” said Kiely. “We’ll go for another handicap hurdle, but he’ll jump a fence, in time.”
The Mags Mullins-trained Bowenscourt (4-1) earned due reward for her consistency when landing the bumper, under Finny Maguire. Never far off the pace, she edged ahead rounding the final turn, and raced clear of easy-to-back favourite Simiel, for a smooth success.
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