Willie Mullins took the feature, Gordon Elliott added two to his tally, the fine form of the Pat Fahy stable continued unabated with another brace, and a Charles Byrne-trained horse landed a tidy gamble. Clonmel, on a crisp spring afternoon, was a microcosm of the national hunt season thus far.
Mullins struck first, taking the Munster Hurdle with Urano, who was back over the smaller obstacles for the first time in almost two years.
Held up off the pace for much of the journey, Ruby Walsh let his mount ease into contention approaching the straight and was in front when long-time leader Nine Stiches and the staying-on Dont Tell No One unshipped their riders at the final hurdle.
That left Urano to race home clear of Aurora Bell.
Said Walsh: “He has been on the go a long time, and very testing winter ground doesn’t really suit. He struggled to stay in touch early but came alive down the hill the second time, and stayed at it better than most.”
In the absence of morning gamble Black Warrior, De Plotting Shed was sent off the 1-5 favourite to take the Demesne Maiden Hurdle for Gordon Elliott, and he justified those odds with the minimum of fuss.
Bryan Cooper had his mount in second place behind Get Out Of Jail for much of the trip and, after sending him to the front at the third-last, allowed his mount stroll home a proverbial mile clear.
“He was entitled to come on for his first run over hurdles, and will make a fun horse for his owners,” said the winning rider.
There was more than a share of fortune to the Elliott-Cooper double, when Altiepix picked up the pieces in a dramatic two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.
The 11-4 favourite was clear for much of the journey, but looked set to play a minor role when Tipped Up Harry and Killeena House swept past as they turned for home.
Tipped Up Harry eased clear going to the second-last, reached for the fence, and sent Robbie Power tumbling out of the saddle. That left Killeena House in charge but she got tired very quickly, leaving Altiepix to regain the lead going to the last.
A jolting mistake at the final obstacle was not enough to dislodge Cooper, who got his mount balanced before pushing him on to victory. Killeena House, meanwhile, all but landed on top of the fence, came to a halt, before walking home in fourth spot as King Blue plugged on to snatch second place, with He Rock’s in third.
If Black Warrior didn’t get an opportunity to justify morning support in the earlier maiden hurdle, stable companion Alto Esqua certainly did, when he landed a touch in the Clonmel Maiden Hurdle for trainer Charles Byrnes and jockey Davy Russell.
The debutant was available at 7-2 in the morning, but returned 4-6. Apart from reaching for a couple of hurdles, there were few anxious moments as he edged ahead of Double Scores approaching the second-last, and pulled clear late to win readily. A horse with plenty of scope, he appeals as the type to do well over fences.
“He went well in a schooling hurdle at Thurles recently, and Davy (Russell) liked him. It looked a poor maiden hurdle and I’d have been disappointed if he couldn’t do the business,” admitted Byrnes.
“His owner bought him two years ago, but he had niggly problems and we had to keep him back until now. That was no harm, as he is a big horse, who will jump a fence next season.
“We’ll look for a winners-of-one next, and will hope to get him going much earlier next season.”
Pat Fahy’s season keeps getting better and the Carlow trainer recorded a near 15-1 double with Mount Gunner and Head Turner.
Mount Gunnery earned his overdue success in the Kilsheelan Beginners Chase. Prominent throughout, David Mullins sent him past long-time leader Buck Dancing racing to the second-last, and the heavily backed 11-10 favourite stretched out nicely to beat that rival by five lengths.
Said Fahy: “He needed to win that as I’d like to run him in the 0-140 handicap chase at Cheltenham. If he were to get in, I wouldn’t mind going over with him. He has had three quick runs, but will be freshened up now for that race.”
Head Turner completed the Fahy double on her first start for the stable.
A recent purchase from the yards of Martin Cullinane, the well-backed mare (14-1 to 13-2) travelled particularly well, and quickened away like a fresh horse when rider Katie Walsh asked her to go and win her race.
“I bought her off Martin about a month ago. At home she had been doing everything right and had muscled up so much.
“This wasn’t her ground but I wanted to find out a few things about her today. She is easy to deal with, and can step up from this,” said Fahy.
Francis Flood’s Peace N’ Milan earned an overdue change of luck in the bumper, the Johnny King-ridden 6-1 stretching clear up the straight to win convincingly.
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