Cheltenham Gold Cup winning connections, jockey Bryan Cooper, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown Stud, combined to take the feature at the matinee meeting in Clonmel, the Suir Valley Chase, with Bright New Dawn.
With low sun interfering with the course, the two fences in the straight were omitted, resulting in the horses leaving the ground five times fewer than anticipated. The eventual winner was easy to back and sent off the 5-4 favourite, but was keen in the early stages.
Westerners Son poached a long lead but a bad mistake down the back on the final circuit cost him momentum. As they raced downhill towards the turn for home, the favourite eased into contention, and then coasted past the long-time leader in the straight before stretching right away for a bloodless victory.
“He was entitled to win on ratings, and that will get his confidence up,” said Cooper. “The fences being omitted did no harm either - they didn’t tire him out – as it is as far as he wants to go now, and I’d say he’ll be going back in trip rather than further.”
It was the second leg of a double for the winning rider, who teamed up with Irish Grand National-winning trainer Mouse Morris to take the opening Easter Holidays Maiden Hurdle with Alamein.
The six-year-old was prominent throughout, sent to the front turning for home, and was a length up when favourite Bleu Berry took a crashing fall at the final flight. That left the 9-4 chance to coast home clear of Call Vinnie.
Ruby Walsh, ride of Bleu Berry, sustained a sprained ankle and stood down from his intended ride aboard The Job Is Right in the feature.
Another bumper winner, Laid Back Luke, successfully conceded weight to all of his rivals in the Ardfinnan Maiden Hurdle. Sheila Lavery’s horse was ridden positively by Robbie Colgan and had the chasing pack in trouble before they turned for home. Lake Takapuna kept on well but could never quite get to the leader, who won with something to spare.
“He’s a tricky horse, very hard to get fit because he’s so lazy at home, but we’re delighted with that,” said the winning trainer. When he’s headed he spits it out, but has tonnes of ability and likes to dictate the pace.
“He came out of the last race really well, came home and ate up, but we were a bit worried this might have come a bit soon, but it wasn’t. We’ll keep him going, because he’s got a good action and I don’t think he liked the really heavy mud that he had been running on.”
Mary Louise Hallahan has been enjoying a great run with her horses, and Owenacurra Milan made a belated but successful debut over fences in the Slievenamon Beginners Chase.
For much of the trip the 7-2 chance traded the lead with Peter From Paris, but he travelled best into the straight, and stayed on well to race home comfortably clear of the staying-on Cairde Aris.
“We’re delighted with that. It’s probably a bit unorthodox for an 11-year-old to have his first run over fences but still …,” said Hallahan. “Andrew (Lynch) gave him a great ride, and he seemed to jump very well.
“Where he goes next depends on what mark he gets. We’ll contemplate a handicap or maybe a winners’ race, but if the ground dries too much he won’t be running on that.”
Of the stable’s recent run of form, Hallahan added: “Things are going nicely for us, the horses are in good form, and the ground has fallen right for us, so long may it last.”
Pat Fahy’s Ancient Highway made light of a near eight-month absence when making all to take the two-mile-two handicap hurdle under Shane Shortall.
In a battling finish to the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase, the Peter Maher-trained and Ambrose McCurtin-ridden Mtada Supreme edged out King Blue and Jack Kennedy by a neck. The winner will be aimed at the banks race on the Saturday of Punchestown.
The meeting closed with another bumper victory for Jessica and Kate Harrington, this time with Thirsty Work, who carried the colours of JP McManus. Crazyheart set out to make all, but the winner moved past early in the straight, and raced away for a clear-cut success.
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