ALTHOUGH attending the Newmarket Sales, Noel Meade continued in superb form at Punchestown yesterday when a double, achieved by odds-on favourites Perfect Smile and Aitmatov brought his tally to six winners in three days while stable-jockey Paul Carberry, who partnered both horses, went on to complete a personal treble on Gordon Elliott’s Fool’s Wildcat.
Perfect Smile, which gained valuable experience over hurdles last season, made an impressive return to action when coasting to an effortless win in the opening Dobbins Catering Maiden Hurdle.
Although a little keen throughout, the 1/3 favourite jumped impeccably and cruised into contention before edging past front-running Crom Abu on the approach to the final flight before quickening clear on the run-in to triumph by five and a half lengths.
Perfect Smile carries the familiar colours of veteran owner John Corr and has always been highly-rated by his trainer, who commented from the Tattersalls Sales in Newmarket: “I’ve always though the world of this horse but, unfortunately, things didn’t work out for him last season. He was quite sore after his fall in Punchestown and we decided to finish early with him, to keep him a novice for this season.
“But he’s an exciting horse and will go for a novice in a few weeks before he steps into better company, in something like the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.”
While Perfect Smile is a young horse on the up, nine-year-old Aitmatov, without a win since landing the Lismullen at Navan last November, produced a gritty display to win the Go Racing In Kildare Hurdle, completing Meade’s double and providing Carberry with the middle leg of his treble.
Carrying the colours of his trainer since the death of former owner John O’Meara a year ago Aitmatov, whose last win over two miles was achieved in November 2007, dictated the pace.
Surprisingly, Leblon (Andrew McNamara) and Jigalo (Davy Condon) began to challenge at the third last, a ploy which played to the winner’s strengths. Headed briefly by Leblon after the second last, Aitmatov was back on terms and apparently in charge early in the straight before staying on strongly to triumph by three lengths.
Ben Meade, representing his brother, admitted: “It looked tricky for a while, but he picked up again and battled like a pro,” while the successful trainer later confirmed that Aitmatov will now head back to Navan for the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle on Sunday week.
Former champion Paul Carberry completed his treble and became the season’s leading rider when Fool’s Wildcat landed the 2011 Five Day Festival Handicap Hurdle for Gordon Elliott and owner Mick O’Shea from Summerhill, County Meath.
Carberry sent the five-year-old clear after the second last and, although tiring on the run, he held the late effort of Bale O’Shea by a length.
Speaking from Newmarket, Elliott said: “He’ll stay in similar handicap hurdles, but needs good ground.”
Davy Russell, sidelined since Listowel with a fractured leg before resuming at Wexford on Sunday, notched his first win since his return when the Paul Nolan-trained Far Away So Close followed-up a recent maiden win at Tipperary in the Tote Sports Lounge Novice Hurdle.
Having made the running, the strapping Norwich gelding built to make an exciting chaser in the future, surrendered the initiative after a mistake at the last, but rallied for Russell to get back up and beat Hazeymm by a neck.
Like Noel Meade, Nolan is at the Sales in Newmarket. But his brother and assistant James commented: “Both Davy and myself were delighted by the battling qualities he showed. He missed the last three hurdles today. But Davy said he had loads of horse under him going to the last and that he won with a bit in the tank. He has a dirty over-reach but should be okay.
“We were a bit concerned about going right-handed after a poor run in Thurles last season, but that might have been caused by a problem with a tooth. Two miles suits him well, although he’d probably prefer to get a lead. He might go for the For Auction at Navan on Sunday week, unless we decide that it’s coming too soon for him.”
The Gigginstown House Stud colours of Michael O’Leary, worn by Far Away So Close, were back in the winner’s enclosure after the Conor O’Dwyer trained Ferris Bueller sprang a 33/1 shock in the Madigans Bar At Punchestown Maiden Hurdle, foiling Lean Times’ bid to complete a Meade/Carberry hat-trick by a head.
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