On a night when the classy four-year-old Let’s Dance justified 1/12 favouritism in the opener, the Tom Gibney-trained Ah Littleluck captured the featured Brenda Anderson Memorial Cup Rated Novice Hurdle in Sligo last night.
Winner of his maiden in Cork last time, the 2/1 favourite, ridden by Mark Flanagan, stayed on dourly up the straight to beat chief market rival Lofgren by four lengths, prompting trainer Gibney to comment: “It was a big step-up from his maiden win in Cork, which looked ordinary. This looked a competitive little race and he won well.
“He’s been on the go a long time – we originally thought he was a winter horse – and I’m keen to give him a break. He was a first winner for his owner Kevin Haigney, a friend of mine, from Drogheda, when he won in Cork. So he’s having a great time of it. Mark (Flanagan) is riding very well – he’s based with Ger Keane but comes in to ride for us regularly.”
Earlier, the Willie Mullins-trained Let’s Dance, in the frame in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown in her last three starts, had little more than a public schooling session as she landed the Special Olympics Day 4-Y-0 Maiden Hurdle.
The daughter of Poliglote, in the familiar colours of Mrs Susannah Ricci, edged ahead after the fourth flight and was never threatened, coasting home under Danny Mullins to beat Giant Spirit by eight and a half lengths.
The winning rider stated: “She did the job well – all I had to do was stay on her back and steer her. She’ll be well able to compete in the good novice hurdles again for the season ahead and I’m sure Willie will decide where to go with her.”
Kerry teenager Cian Collins recorded the third success if his career when top-weight Isaballa Liberty, raised 7lb for a recent success in Ballinrobe and trained by his boss Gordon Elliott, followed-up in the www.countysligoraces.com Mares Handicap Hurdle.
The Soldier Of Fortune mare swept past the flattering Josephine Marcus on the run-in to triumph by a length and her young partner explained: “She jumped brilliantly, but she was a bit on her head early on. But, in fairness to her, she kept galloping and will stay further. She should win plenty of races during the summer.”
Miss Faithful, which gave trainer Peter McCreery his last success (at Tramore in December 2014), defied top-weight in the first division of the Callan Tansey Solicitors Handicap Hurdle, digging deep for in-form Brian Hayes to get the better of front-runner Station Closed on the run-in.
“She’s a consistent mare and likes that good ground,” said McCreery, “She’ll probably go to Tramore now, over the Bank Holiday weekend.”
In contrast, the second division went to bottom-weight Yes Man, a lightly-raced eleven-year-old, trained by Denis Cullen, which sprang a 33/1 shock in the hands of Jody McGarvey.
And even bigger shock came in the Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle when nine-year-old Luckey Seven, a half-brother to Peddlers Cross, which last tasted action in a Lingstown point-to-point back in November 2013, scored on his first start for Eoin Doyle, stretching clear for Andrew Ring to beat favourite Glencairn View by four and three-quarter lengths. He was returned at a massive 66/1.
Favourite-backers also lost out in the Ellen’s Pub Maugherow Handicap Hurdle as 2/1 favourite Happy As Larry, trained for J P McManus by James Motherway and ridden by Barry Geraghty, lost out, on the lengthened run-in (last hurdle omitted) to 16/1 shot The Mad Well, trained and ridden by Denis Hogan.
Tom Taaffe introduced the Oscar mare Belle Helene to land the bumper under claimer Brien Kane.
The 25/1 shot made her move on the home turn, heading Patrick Mullins’ mount Imperial Way. But, in the final furlong, the winner drifted right under pressure, carrying Imperial Way with him and hampering both the runner-up and the well-backed third Golden Poet (which was also squeezed for room before the straight) before scoring by a half-length.
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