The Grade 2 Istabraq Hurdle was the feature event on yesterday’s high-class mixed programme at Tipperary, and Plinth, carrying the colours of the eponymous three-time Champion Hurdler, and also trained by Aidan O’Brien, caused a minor upset when landing the spoils.
Fethard Player set out to make all and was still in front turning for home, shortly after which the always prominent Plinth was asked to close.
In behind odds-on favourite Thomas Edison travelled ominously well and looked a real danger. The latter, returning after a heavy fall in the Galway Hurdle, didn’t pick up immediately, and was sympathetically handled as Plinth and Fethard Player got down to battle it out.
In a driving finish, Mark Walsh persuaded 6-1 chance Plinth to find that little extra to beat his persistent rival by a length.
Frank Berry, representing owner JP McManus, said: “That was a bit of a surprise, but he never runs a bad race, jumps well, and keeps going.” Of Thomas Edison he added: “He took a heavy fall at Galway, and maybe he’ll get his confidence back after this.”
The Eddie O’Connell-owned Bachasson, unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, was hot favourite for the Grade 3 Dolores Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle and the 2-5 chance, with the vast majority of his Glanmire fan club in attendance, recorded a professional performance to extend his unbeaten record over timber to four.
Jonathon Burke tried to steal the race aboard Three Stars and they were nicely clear until jinking between the last two obstacles. Bachasson, in chase at that stage, was just finding stride, and jumped to the front over the final obstacle before kicking clear to win comfortably in the finish.
Said winning rider Ruby Walsh: “Johnny Burke got first run on me, but my fellow has plenty of gears, picked up really well, flew the last and won well.
“He definitely jumped slicker than he has in the past. He’s improving the whole time, getting much more professional, and appreciated the little bit more ease in the ground today than he had at Galway last time. He’s going in the right direction.”
Walsh completed a quick double when bringing the Gordon Elliott-trained The Game Changer with a perfectly timed run to land the Grade 3 Like A Butterfly Novice Chase from long-time leader and fellow Gigginstown-owned Rule The World.
Gordon Elliott, winning trainer, said: “That was great. He got the two-and-a-half-mile trip well at this track, but is better over two. He’ll go to Cheltenham in three weeks’ time for a novice chase, and will be left off after that with the intention of bringing him back for the festivals in the spring.”
The feature on the flat was the Group 3 Concorde Stakes, and there was drama in the aftermath as Sovereign Debt, who was touched off by market-rival Tested, was awarded the race in the stewards’ room.
Leigh Roche got Tested into a good position early, the horse travelled well into the straight and, when sent for home, looked booked for victory. However, favourite Sovereign Debt, ridden by Declan McDonogh, deputising for Kieren Fallon, who failed to make it to the track on time, picked up really well in the closing stages and failed by a short head to catch the leader.
The stewards called an inquiry as Tested drifted to her right inside the final hundred yards and carried Sovereign with her. The officials deemed the interference enough to reverse the result.
“It was a fair decision as our horse was bumped and carried across the track. We like the Irish air, and so does he,” said Sovereign Debt’s trainer, Dandy Nicholls.
With a rating of 91, the Jim Bolger-trained Siamsaiocht deserved to get her head in front in a maiden, and duly did so with a plucky effort from the front to beat Dawenkour by half a length in the nine-furlong opener.
Said jockey Ronan Whelan: “We thought the blinkers might sharpen her up, and they certainly did. If anything she was doing a bit too much over that trip, in maiden company, but once I got her relaxed I tried to keep a little up my sleeve, and I always felt I was holding the other horse. You’d be hoping she’d go on now and get her head in front in a black-type race.”
Kanturk rider Killian Leonard secured the second win of his career – the other, incidentally, also came at Tipperary – when steering top-weight Seanie to victory in the Tote Jackpot handicap.
The David Marnane-trained six-year-old contested the early lead, eased a couple clear in the straight and, as was the case 12 months previously in this race, held off the challenge of Bubbly Bellini, who was having his 100th outing.
Said Leonard: “In fairness to the horse, he showed plenty of toe, but was pulling up at the finish. It’s fantastic to get an opportunity to ride a horse like that, in a race like that, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”
Patrick D’Aubrelle benefitted from a tactically astute ride from Patrick Mullins when reversing previous form with Oathkeeper and, in doing so, winning his third bumper.
“He’s improved steadily with each run, and not many win three bumpers,” said the winning rider. “He prefers good ground, so I’d imagine we might wait until next year to go hurdling with him, to give him a full season. He could go the same route as Bachasson.”
Ray Hackett has Phil The Flyer in tremendous form, and he competed his hat-trick with a smooth victory in the Woodlands Hotel Adare Handicap Hurdle.
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