Back from Dubai, Michael Halford doubled-up with Ebadan and Hat Alnasar in Dundalk last night, providing eight-time champion-jockey Pat Smullen with his first winner of 2016, when Ebadan justified 4/6 favouritism in the one-mile Big Bad Bob Maiden.
Beaten a short-head last time, Ebadan staying on stoutly under the champion’s determined driving to beat market rival A Shin Impala by a length and a half.
The Holy Roman Emperor colt toughed it out in good style, to the delight of his trainer: “He’s a lovely straight forward colt and his form was rock-solid. He’s an improver and every time you go the tank, there’s something there.”
He confirmed that the Aga Khan-owned colt is likely to go to the Goffs Sales next month.
The eminently tough and consistent Hat Alnasar provided Halford with his second success, landing the one-mile www.dundalkstadium.com Handicap in gutsy style under Conor Hoban.
The Moss Vale colt edged past top-weight Grey Danube before battling well to keep favourite Marise at bay by a length and a quarter.
Halford declared: “I don’t think anyone can begrudge him that – he’s been so consistent. He loves it around here and we’ll keep tipping away with him here.
“He’s a straightforward ride and Conor was very good on him. It’s nice to see the horse take his chance.”
The featured two-mile Dundalk Stadium On Facebook Handicap produced a tremendous tussle with the Tony Mullins-trained Saga Bolton (Rory Cleary) denying the flattering favourite Duchess Of Marmite, a first runner in Ireland for Richard Hughes, by a short-head.
“He idles in front and probably needs blinkers, but he has ability and stays well,” said the winning trainer, “We’ll try to get him qualified for the staying race in Lingfield (the all-weather championship meeting on Good Friday), although it might mean travelling, because the qualifier here is a bit too close.”
Up 6lb. for a course and distance win six weeks ago, the Pat Flynn-trained Little Sweetheart again showed her liking for the polytrack when making all in the opening five-furlong handicap.
The 13/8 favourite found enough in the final furlong to hold Mr.Right by three-quarters of a length, prompting her rider Danny Grant to comment: “She’s speedy and has progressed well on this surface. She loves racing front and, to be fair, she stuck her head out – she’s very genuine.”
The Damien English-trained Tribal Path, enterprisingly ridden by Donagh O’Connor, bolted-up in the seven-furlong apprentice handicap, skipping clear on the home-turn and running on strongly to beat Rose Angle by almost five lengths.
“He was very consistent, from bad draws, here before Christmas but from stall one tonight Donagh made no mistake,” explained trainer English, who was recording his first win since August, “You need everything to go right here and it did tonight.”
Johnny Murtagh admitted: “It’s nice to get a winner on the board so early in the New Year,” after Zylan (Connor King) got the better of Torpedo Alley in the claimer, the Kyllachy colt’s second win on the polytrack.
“It was a good opportunity for him and he was probably, more progressive than the others,” added Murtagh about the 9/4 shot which was subsequently claimed for €15,000 by Damian Lavelle, who will send him into training with David Marnane.
And, under a strong ride by apprentice Robbie Downey, the Keith Clarke-trained mare Poitin justified 100/30 favouritism in the finale, the Jolly January Dining Special Handicap, beating Locus Standi convincingly.
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