AN enterprising, front-running ride by Andrew McNamara enabled Fearnwood Girl land the featured Irish Stallion Farms Novice Hurdle at Sligo yesterday.
Fearnwood Girl, winner of her maiden over course and distance in May, was a reluctant early leader. But McNamara, knowing that his mount stays well, quickly committed himself to dictating the pace and, having poached an eight or ten lengths lead at one stage, kept going to beat Vivaldi by two lengths.
“It’s nice to get a pot like that,” said delighted trainer McCourt. “Andrew felt there wouldn’t be much pace in the race and said he’d be happy to let her slip on in front. Making the running definitely made a difference and was probably the winning of it. Although she’s not the quickest, she keeps going.
“She jumps those Easyfix hurdles quickly and stays well and I suppose we’ll have to go back handicapping. So Galway is on the agenda now.”
Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden, removed to hospital with multiple injuries following a first flight fall from Merdaam in the opener, missed the winning ride on 20/1 shot Bean Chroi Bhriste in the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Maiden Hurdle.
David Casey, unlucky when his mount Ixora was hampered and ran out through the wing of the final flight in the opening maiden hurdle, deputised for Madden and seized his opportunity, producing the daughter of Broken Hearted with a storming late run to foil Benefit Of Porter by a half-length.
Bean Chroi Bhriste, owned by her breeder Michael Heery, from Portmarnock in County Dublin, is trained by Michael Flannery, who quipped: “It was a spare ride for David (Casey). But he was reluctant to ride her — he wanted to go away and watch the hurling match on TV. The winner was badly needed.”
Winner of his bumper on the track in May, Mighty Whitey returned to land the opening Northwest Maiden Hurdle for Noel Kelly, who is based in Draperstown, County Derry.
Ridden from well off the pace, Bobby Molloy’s mount hung off the final bend, briefly looking as if he might run out.
But he was then left clear when his nearest pursuer Ixora was hampered by a loose horse and crashed through the wing of the final hurdle.
This left Mighty Whitey, half-brother to the classy Clara Allen, in command and he coasted home twenty-one lengths clear of Tadhg, prompting is trainer to explain: ‘He’s head-strong and our aim today was to drop him out last and try to get his head right, even if he didn’t win.
“But he came through to win well and he’ll go for a novice hurdle at Galway now.”
The Tony Mullins-trained Split Ear, owned by a Wexford-based syndicate, justified sustained support (7/1 to 5/1) in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, coasting through under the trainer’s nephew Emmet (Mullins) to beat top-weight Takestan readily by seven lengths.
The eight-year-old is now bound for Galway, according to his trainer. “Although he won a bumper over two miles and three, every time we’ve tried him beyond two miles over hurdles, he’s met with defeat. So we’ll be keeping him to the minimum trip and he’ll run in the handicap hurdle on the Wednesday of Galway.”
Ben Dalton (18), from New Ross, County Wexford registered his first success over hurdles when partnering the Conor O’Dwyer-trained Prosperity Square to a short-head victory over the flattering Muzak in the Martinstown Opportunbity Handicap Hurdle.
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