Leading owners J P McManus and Gigginstown House Stud shared the spoils with Getoutwhenyoucan and The Game Changer, respectively, in the €20,000 twin-features in Ballinrobe last night.
Getoutwhenyoucan provided trainer Austin Leahy with a welcome change of luck when landing the P & D Lydon Handicap Hurdle, while The Game Changer continued the excellent form of Gordon Elliott in the Hollymount Nursing Home Chase.
Disappointing in his first run at Kilbeggan on Friday after a break, Getoutwhenyoucan surprised even his trainer when springing a 20/1 shock. He travelled strongly into the lead early on the final circuit before keeping Stormey at bay by three-quarters of a length before retaining the prize in a stewards’ enquiry, called after the runner-up was denied a run up the inside on the run-in.
“That’s a pleasant surprise,” declared Leahy. “He ran no race in Kilbeggan and I was a bit worried about him over two miles today, but he seemed to travel well, got to the front a bit early and wasn’t doing much in front, but I’m glad to get it. He’s not an easy horse to place, but we’ll try to mix-it with him, hurdles and fences.”
The Game Changer has been a tremendous money-spinner for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown and returned to winning ways (his first success in almost two years) when outpointing Ted Veale in the conditions chase, in which favourite Don’t Touch It finished a well-beaten fourth of five.
Ridden by Davy Russell, he jumped past his rival two out and went on to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths, prompting his rider to comment, “It was a good opportunity and he took it well. I’ve always enjoyed riding this horse. He used to be braver at his fences, but he’s gone a bit clever, in a good way. He’s been a good servant and there should be more races to be won with him.”
The Noel Meade-trained Major Destination, backed into 7/4 favourite and enterprisingly ridden by Sean Flanagan, made every yard of the running to capture the Connaught Telegraph Beginners Chase.
Clear for most of the journey and jumping boldly, if a little to the left at times, the six-year-old son of Dubai Destination stayed on dourly at the end of the two-mile, seven-furlong trip to keep Logical Song at bay by a length.
Flanagan explained, “He was always going to be a better chaser than hurdler and his run in Killarney got his eye in. He jumped from fence to fence, although he wasn’t fluent over the last two, and galloped away. A bigger track and going left-handed will suit him better.”
Trainer Denise O’Shea said “after she won in Sligo last week, I thought she’d be going chasing, but then I saw this race and lobbed her in” after Kilganer Queen, ridden by Brian Hayes, captured the David Heneghan Memorial Handicap Hurdle at the expense of favourite Eiri Na Casca.
“It’s great to have a good mare and I can’t wait to get her chasing,” she added. “It’s brilliant to win another hurdle with her, and Brian [Hayes], a very under-rated rider, gave her a fantastic ride. It’s funny, because I was worried about the soft ground in Sligo and about the drying ground today, but it all worked out well.”
Winner of a Thurles bumper for Tony Martin in January 2015, but unsuccessful in 12 outings over obstacles for Joseph O’Brien, Valgor Du Ronceray made all to justify 5/4 favouritism, at the expense of long-absent Now Let Go, in the opening Adare Manor Opportunity Maiden Hurdle.
The Gigginstown-owned grey was a third winner for Shane Shortall since he joined the O’Brien team and he said: “Joseph told me to keep it straight-forward, so I jumped out, quickened the pace going up the back and he jumped the last two well. It was a good opportunity and he took it.”
O’Brien looked set to complete a double when Let’s Twist Again (Mark Walsh) jumped into the lead at the second last flight in the Corrib Oil Handicap (over three miles and a furlong), but the five-year-old succumbed to the late challenge of Alaliya, ridden by 7lb claimer Liam Gilligan.
Alaliya was a welcome winner for Co Galway handler Gerry Lynch, who acknowledged: “That’s badly needed; we’ve been a bit unlucky with a few of the horses and it’s great to win again. This filly is as tough as nails and I’ll enter her for the four-year-old handicap hurdle in Listowel [the ‘Lartigue’]. She’ll run there, if the ground is soft.”
The bumper went to Getaway Katie, trained in Co Waterford by John Queally. It came from last to first under Jamie Codd to thwart Motown Girl (Patrick Mullins) by three-quarters of a length.
“She ran a brilliant race to finish second, in horrendous ground, in her only point-to-point, in Lemonfield,” said Codd. “She’s not very big, but has plenty of pace, so it wasn’t a concern when they didn’t go quick. Her owners should have a lot of fun with her.”
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