The French-bred Upsie notched her fourth win from six starts since joining Willie Mullins when beating stable-companion Urticaire in the punchestown.com Mares Hurdle in Punchestown yesterday.
In the absence of Layla Joan, the J P McManus-owned six-year-old was sent off a weak 5/4 favourite and, patiently handled by Ruby Walsh, asserted after a fluent leap at the final flight to triumph by a length and a half.
Mullins admitted: “I’m pleased with that, because I was very afraid of the ground and the trip. The drop in class helped her over the trip. I wanted to run her in the two-mile race in Clonmel last week (abandoned) and wasn’t pushed about running today, but Frank (Berry) was anxious that there were very few opportunities for her.
“She jumped better today, needed a good jump at the last and got it when Ruby asked her. I was a particularly pleased by the good run from the novice mare (Urticaire) — it should set her up nicely for a good mares novice in the spring.”
Having encountered a troubled run around the inside (on Punchestown’s tight, inside track), the Gordon Elliott-trained Noble Endeavor came through to get the better of Tebbob by a length and three-quarters in the INH Stallion Owners Maiden Hurdle.
Ridden by Robbie Colgan, the 6/4 favourite, in the colours of Chris Jones, was making it third-time-lucky over hurdles and building on an emphatic bumper success at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The winning trainer commented: “It was a bit rough and ready out there but he won well in the finish and probably needs a more galloping track. He’ll make a nice chaser and might have only one more run over hurdles- he could go for the Grade 2 — two-and-a-half mile novice at Fairyhouse — the race Mala Beach won last year.”
Mouse Morris declared: “He wasn’t winning before his time and deserved it,” after the Mark Enright-ridden Dromnea made virtually all the running to win the opening Festival Party Pack Maiden Hurdle, holding the late challenge of favourite Blow The Doors Off by a neck. Morris added: “He’ll make a nice chaser next season — Mark says he’s crying out for a fence. It’s a while since I had a winner for the Dalys and this fellow is a home-bred.”
Runner-up on her debut at Leopardstown, the Willie McCreery-trained What Lies Ahead made all under Jane Mangan to justify 4/5 favouritism in the four-year-old bumper, holding Flight Plan (rider Johnny King picked-up a one-day whip ban) by two lengths.
“She’s a decent little mare,” stated McCreery. “She did it the hard way, in front, in that ground, and kept pulling out a bit when she was tackled. She has schooled well and won’t be over-raced. We might look at the listed four-year-old bumper in Limerick for her.”
Visored for the first time and ridden prominently by Bryan Cooper, the Dessie Hughes-trained Rock’s Field belatedly opened her account when proving best in the Festival Any Day Flexi Ticket Mares Maiden Hurdle. Hughes said: “The visor helped her because, the last day, she didn’t want to race at all, got well out of her ground and then ran on when it was all over. The ground is getting chopped up out there, so Bryan kept her wide all the way.”
Tipped Up Harry, ridden by Robert Power, provided trainer Denise Foster with a poignant success in the Festival Hospitality Handicap Hurdle, so soon after the tragic death of her daughter Lucy.
The 7/1 shot got the better of market-leaders Rightville Boy and Playing, scoring emphatically by four and a quarter lengths.
County Clare-based trainer-rider Danny Howard was successful with 16/1 shot Duty Dance in the Festival Free Upgrade Ends Today Handicap Hurdle, his first success in the saddle since May 2012. “I’ve taken quite a few falls from her, so we have a bit of a love-hate relationship.”
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