For the second consecutive year the Arthur Moore-trained Gentleman Duke landed the featured Kinsale Handicap Chase and, in doing so, gave jockey Barry Geraghty the first leg of a double yesterday at Cork Racecourse.
Crown Theatre travelled and jumped with his customary exuberance and looked a winner when moving to the front at the second-last. He was matched at 1-20 on the exchanges, but Barry Geraghty got a great response from the chasing Gentleman Duke, who jumped big at the last but really picked up really well to collar the leader in the dying strides.
As in 2014, trainer Henry de Bromhead was denied by a small margin, of which Moore joked: “We weren’t too hard on Henry this time - it was just a short head last year, half a length this.
“I was a bit worried about the weight, as he’s not a very big horse. But, he was bouncing beforehand, and Barry gave him a great ride. He needs every inch of the two miles, but loves the flat track.
“This race was always on the agenda but you couldn’t bank on the ground. The Listowel race fitted in perfectly as a prep, and thankfully it worked well.”
A return to hurdling could be on the cards, though Moore added: “We’ll wait to see how the ground goes before we decide where we go next. When he can pick up races like this, he doesn’t have to run too often.”
Only three went to post for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase and Geraghty again had to be at his most persuasive to complete his double aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained Shadow Catcher.
The three jumped the last together and the judge had to be called to separate the two Pat Sloan-owned runners. The photo showed Shadow Catcher to have prevailed by the narrowest of margins, from Guitar Pete.
After runner-up finishes over hurdles and on the flat, Hatch Hall (11-10f) made the breakthrough in the opening four-year-old maiden hurdle.
“For a horse that has run on the flat, he’s still a bit babyish, but he deserved that win,” said winning trainer Karl Thornton. “The form of his Curragh run on Tuesday was franked when winner Mademoiselle Penny won on Friday night.
“I got the horse from Joseph Murphy, who said the horse would do a job over hurdles. We’ll probably go to the likes of Musselburgh as we’ll get decent ground there.”
Ruby Walsh gave Westerner Lady a positive ride in the three-mile novice hurdle, and it worked a treat as the pair held sway throughout and stayed on well to win well. Said Walsh: “She won over two miles seven furlongs so we said we’d go a good gallop and see what happened, and she did it well.”
Donagh Meyler continues to impress, and his talent was seen to great effect aboard Swantykay in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. The young rider dropped his mount out before bringing him through with a perfectly timed run to beat favourite Pilgrim Way.
“He was travelling into the race well the last day at Gowran but they just quickened away from him, so I said to Eoin (Doyle, trainer) we might step him up in trip, and it worked well,” explained Meyler.
Of his own good run, he added: “Long may it continue. It’s a great help to be getting rides from many different owners, but Eoin has been very good to me - I started off there as a young lad.”
Trainer John Joe Walsh has Wate And Sea in top form, and the seven-year-old made it three wins from her last four outings when running on strongly to land the two-mile handicap hurdle under Adrian Heskin.
“That’s Adrian’s fifth win on her, so he’s married to her now,” quipped Walsh. “She is improving all the time, has a good bit of foot and, if the ground will stay good, will have another run.”
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Exactoris followed up his Roscommon success when staying on strongly to beat Knockraha Boss in the bumper, with long odds-on shot Babbling Stream only third.
“He was a big baby the first day, at Killarney, but grew up a lot from then to Roscommon, and again to today,” said O’Brien. “They went a good gallop for two miles and three furlongs, and he wasn’t done at the end. Sara gave him a lovely ride.”
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