In 2012 Raz De Maree won the Paddy Power Cork National for the late Dessie Hughes, and four years on - now an 11-year-old and trained by Gavin Cromwell - he showed the light still burns brightly as earned a second victory in the feature race at a packed Mallow racecourse.
Ridden by Ger Fox, who is building a reputation in nationals, the 14-1 chance stalked the pace for much of the race, but a bad mistake five out could have proved costly.
Fox sat tight, however, brought his mount to challenge early in the straight, and they landed in front at the second-last. While Forever Gold pushed him hard from the back of the last, Raz De Maree always looked to be holding that rival.
“That was badly needed – for myself and for the horse,” admitted Fox. “Things have gone a bit slow for me, rides have tightened up a bit. But trainers like Gavin Cromwell and Fran Flood have been great, and so it’s great to ride a big winner for Gavin.
“The race wasn’t run at a quick pace, which suited my horse as, ideally, he wants soft ground. But he ran a great race at Gowran, behind As De Pique, and I was hopeful he could reverse the form.
“He made a bad mistake at the fifth-last today, and did well to stay on his feet, but he travelled great, stays well, and pulled out plenty for me.”
David Mullins may have suffered a fall in the feature, but the story of the undercard was his three winners, all in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud, who also had two winners in Naas.
Mullins got off the mark aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained Blood Crazed Tiger, who had to dig deep to land the listed Paddy Power Acca Insurance Novice Hurdle.
The 6-4 chance took his customary place at the head of affairs and held that position until Screaming Rose put her nose in front turning for home. However, Mullins didn’t panic, just held onto his rivals and, when the new leader made a mistake at the second-last, rode his mount to assert for victory.
“He’s not the most straight-forward horse in the world, but David gets on well with him,” said assistant trainer Olly Murphy. “He’s going the right way. He did everything right today, and is just a tough, hardy, genuine horse. He’ll only be a horse next year, so whatever he does now is a bonus.”
The middle leg for the near 9-1 treble came aboard Bilko, also trained by Elliott. Even-money joint favourite with Snag List in the four-runner race, he travelled best throughout and scored with plenty to spare.
“He is very much a work in progress,” said assistant trainer Murphy. “He was very green the last day, when he threw away whatever chance he had by running around at the last.
“His work at home is good, but two and a half miles is probably as far as he wants to go – he’s not short of speed. We’ll take our time with him, and look for a small winners’ race somewhere.”
Of a day which, by end of racing, yielded five winners across the two cards, Murphy added: “That was a tenth winner in three days (later became 11) and we have to try and enjoy things while they’re going so well. It’s what you get working for such a good trainer.”
Only three went to post for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase but, early on, it promised to be a cracker as old foes Alpha Des Obeaux and Westerner Lady set off side-by-side over the first couple of fences.
But the complexion of the race changed when the latter made a bad mistake at the third, and that left Alpha Des Obeaux and Mullins to dictate.
Clear thereafter, he had to be ridden out late to fend off the renewed effort of Westerner Lady, who behaved well to get back into the race considering it took her a few fences to get her confidence back. Thanks For Tea also ran well, and was only a neck behind the runner-up.
Said winning trainer Mouse Morris: “He jumped super and just idled in front but the operation was a success and the patient lived. He’ll be in the Drinmore and the 2m6f Grade 2 Florida Pearl at Punchestown and hopefully he’ll be ok in the morning.”
Little Stevie, having fallen at the last with a maiden hurdle at his mercy on his previous visit here, gained compensation with victory in the opener under Brian O’Connell.
A slick round of jumping and a touch of class was too much for the game Bensachuine.
Enda Bolger, winning trainer, said: “An hour before racing I was considering taking him out because I thought the ground was too quick. He’s only had seven or eight weeks work, so we’re really looking forward to the winter with him.”
Coolbane West, trained by Liam Burke, readily proved best when asserting late to take the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. It was a second consecutive victory for seven-year-old, who benefitted from a confident ride form Philip Enright.
Odds-on players had few concerns watching the finale, as Good Thyne Tara, ridden by Patrick Mullins for his father, Willie, bolted in, despite having to concede plenty of weight all round. A listed bumper at Navan is likely to be next on her agenda.
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