Off the track since finishing unplaced in the Munster National last October, Casey Top captured the featured McSweeney Arms Hotel Handicap Chase in Killarney yesterday.
Ridden by local hero Bryan Cooper, the morning gamble jumped past front-running Derinlaur at the second last before stretching clear to beat gallant top-weight Tranquil Sea (conceding 28lb. to the winner) by four and a half lengths.
Casey Top is trained in Co Wexford by Leonard Whitmore, who explained: “He runs best fresh. He won a winners chase first time out last year and didn’t win again.
“Maybe, I won’t run him as often this summer. It’s good to get into good handicaps with light weights — he was 3lb. out of the handicap today. I suppose he’ll take a jump in the ratings after this and, if he wins again, maybe a ‘winners of two’, he might get into the Galway Plate.”
Without a win since February 2010, the highly-tried Won In The Dark landed the MD O’Shea & Sons Hurdle by a half-length from the well-backed Flycorn after Dancing Tornado, a close third and challenging, blundered and unseated Adrian Heskin at the final flight.
It was a muddling affair, with Wolf Hall setting a sedate before the race developed into a sprint. Andrew Lynch made his move early on the winner, was tackled and headed by the runner-up and came back strongly to get on top on the run-in.
Trainer Sabrina Harty said: “He certainly deserved that after a few unlucky runs — he was running a cracker when brought down in Aintree. He’ll have a summer campaign and we’ll try to find another few races like this.
The Terence O’Brien-trained Ballyadam Approach ran out an impressive winner of the Laurels Bar Maiden Hurdle, coasting home under Tom Doyle seven lengths clear of Sir Harry Cash.
O’Brien admitted: “He won two point to points and we thought he was a smashing young horse. But he got a touch of a leg and had two wind operations, the second of them was almost a last chance saloon. I thought we’d never get him back.”
Trainer Enda Bolger declared: “That was definitely ride of the week,” after John Thomas McNamara got No Notions, in the colours of JP McManus, home a half-length winner from The Mull in the Dan Linehan’s Bar Hunters Chase.
Earlier, Roger McGrath’s Thynetocatcher, winner of a listed mares bumper in Navan back In November, returned to winning form when proving a clearcut winner of the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Maiden Hurdle.
Pulled up last time at Fairyhouse (“wasn’t herself”, according to her trainer), the Catcher In The Rye mare, ridden by Declan Queally, beat Grainne Delight by almost four lengths.
Trainer William Hayes quipped: “Lar (Corbett) is back and so are we!”, after 20/1 Dark Raven chinned favourite Shrapnel in the Keg Security Tralee Maiden Hurdle, giving his trainer a first success since July 2007.
So expensive to follow, the Charles Byrnes-trained Shrapnel appeared to have the race in the bag when ‘fluffing’ the last two hurdles before losing out by a short-head.
Punters suffered a major blow in the lady riders’ bumper when 4/7 favourite Elsie, hanging from flagfall under Jane Mangan, ran out on the stands bend.
At the business, end Nina Carberry triumphed on Aonvarr, a first winner since May 2006 for trainer Billy Lanigan.
“We’ve always thought a bit of this horse, commented Lanigan. “I don’t know whether we’ll go for a winners’ bumper or go hurdling.”
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