TRAINER David Marnane is enjoying his best ever season and registered his 24th win of the campaign in Ireland when Maal came from last to first to win the Derrinstown Stud Apprentice Claiming Race in Clonmel last evening.
Ridden by rising star Leigh Roche, Maal, a model of consistency this season, had plenty to do turning for home and needed strong handling inside the final furlong to peg back front-runner and chief market rival Blackwitch Woman close home to score by a half-length.
Marnane commented: “He’s been consistent all year and deserved to win another. This is the last claimer for him, so he’ll go back handicapping now. He’s settling better than in the past. We’ll probably run him over a mile and a half in Listowel and we’ll try him again in Dundalk (he ran once there last year) later on.”
Odds-on punters had no worries in the opening All-Ireland Hurling Weekend as the 82-rated Echoes Of History made all to record a facile seven length win over Ideal Match.
The Forestry colt, a 43rd winner in Ireland this season for Wayne Lordan, is trained by David Wachman, who commented: “He was due a win and will go handicapping now. I thought he’d win in Dundalk the last day but, like a lot of mine on the day, he ran poorly. The ground was very slow and he needs conditions like today.”
Veteran trainer Pat Lally, based in Athboy, County Meath, was not present to see Mac Tiernan make all under Martin Harley (his twelfth winner of the season) to win the Premier County Handicap, Lally’s first success since The Tinker Murray triumphed at Naas in August 2005.
Harley dashed the winner clear on the approach to the straight and he kept going to beat favourite Waydownsouth by five lengths.
Mac Tiernan is owned by Mrs Christine Kiernan, wife of his breeder Paul, who explained: “Pat will be disappointed he wasn’t here but he plans to have runners in Dundalk on Sunday and Roscommon on Monday and decided not to travel.
“We bred this fellow ourselves and he’s a first winner for his sire Minashki, which we stand at home. Pat intends sending this horse over hurdles sooner rather than later.”
Curragh trainer Jim Gorman enjoyed a welcome change of luck when The Black Abbot, strongly ridden by Declan McDonogh, got up close home to foil front-running top-weight Elusive Ridge in tbe Slievenamon Handicap and then survive a Stewards Enquiry.
The four-year-old, in the colours of ACTS Limited, was gaining his first success and was helped by being 3lb. well-in after a good third to Priomhbhean at Tipperary last Thursday.
Gorman said: “He went up 3lb. for his run in Tipperary, so we had to run. He’s tough and Declan says he’ll stay further than a mile and a quarter. He’ll stick to similar handicaps, on good ground, or the all-weather. He’ll probably be gelded over the winter and will jump hurdles next summer.”
Former champion Pat Smullen, rider of runner-up Elusive Ridge, was banned for one day for careless riding.
In the hurdle action, Michael Doran (24), who is based with Paul Nolan, recorded his fifth career success, and his second since turning professional, when Flight Control overturned the Ruby Walsh-ridden favourite Captain Sully in the Blue &b Gold Maiden Hurdle. Flight Control, owned by his breeder Maurice Sheehy, took over from longtime leader Redzer Gazgoff between the last two flights and stayed on to beat the favourite by a length and quarter.