CHANGING codes, Lord Lariat (129) crowned a fine weekend for local trainer Dermot McLoughlin who landed back-to-back Irish Grand Nationals to complement his opening race double on Sunday.
Paddy O’Hanlan steered the 40/1 shot to victory in the marathon Easter feature which was slowly run through the formative stages and therefore produced the slowest time-figure of the day over fences.
It therefore paid to race handily, which both the first and second home did throughout. Lord Lariot covered the ground from the fifth last in 77.9secs which was just 1.2secs slower than Easy Game had taken in the previous Grade 2, so those attempting to make ground faced an impossible task.
The performances of Screaming Colours (122+) and Early Doors (122+) can therefore be upgraded, although the latter needs to improve his fencing to be competitive in long distance chases.
Easy Game (147) repeated his victory of last year in the Devenish Chase to clock the best time-figure of the day over fences while Defi Bleu (143) fought off the challenge of the stronger-travelling Donkey Years (143) and may have another long-distance chase in his legs while in the mood.
Ideal Pal (128+) and Iberique Du Seuil (130) look evenly matched based on stopping the clock in an almost identical time for the two-mile journey although the closing sectionals show the opening handicap hurdle is the race to follow.
Michael Mulvany’s gelding made all the running and closed from the third last hurdle in 59.4secs, compared to Gordon Elliott’s graded winner’s 62.2secs.
The performances to note in the handicap include Celestial Horizon (124+), who was faster than the winner from the third last posting 58.7secs despite having to navigate traffic and Uncle Gerhard (121+) who was shuffled back to almost last approaching the second last hurdle before finishing strongly.
Galway on Horizon
Celestial Horizon would appeal for one of the handicaps at Galway where he registered a comfortable victory on the flat last summer.
well at the business end
GALOPIN Des Champs (139+) was the star of the show on Sunday as he made amends for his unfortunate Cheltenham departure. Willie Mullins’ gelding again showed his versatility as he was happy to saunter along at a moderate gallop before quickening in the latter stages of the race.
The six-year-old’s time-figure was eclipsed by stablemate Mt Leinster (147) although he covered the closing sectional 3.2secs faster when asked to win his race by Paul Townend.
The pick of the hurdle races were Dermot McLoughlin’s pair who won the first two races on the card and registered the same time-figure when adjusted for distance; both were faster than the mares in the Grade 1 contest.
Imperial Ruler (130) was quickest through the closing stages although his cause was aided by missing the second last hurdle. The second, third, fourth and fifth all look handicap projects for further down the line but judged on this performance they all have ability. The one that took the eye the most was From The Ashes (122+).
Digby (130) survived a last-flight mistake to make all the running in the novice handicap with the performances to note of those in behind coming from Auckland (128+), who may have won if jumping the last two flights better, and The Tack Room (127+) who stayed on strongly to force a dead-heat for third.
THE Easter festival got off to a low-key start on Saturday with the best performance on the clock emerging from Glan (145) in the handicap hurdle. The faster time-figure achieved by Gordon Elliott’s mare, when compared to the other hurdle races, was supported by a vastly superior final-circuit time.
Looking towards the future, I would highlight the run of He’s A Hardy Bloke (141) who stayed on nicely after being held in by the winner turning for home. Noel Meade’s gelding appears to be better suited by going right-handed.
The best of the chases was surprisingly the hunter chase, won by Vaucelet (132+) for the David Christie team who were narrowly denied at Cheltenham. The seven-year-old looks a young hunter going places.