Darragh O’Keeffe enjoyed the biggest victory of his fledgling riding career after steering Ballyoisin home in front in the €100,000 Ladbrokes Ireland Listowel Handicap Hurdle on Thursday.
Enda Bolger’s charge is better known for his exploits over fences, with a Grade 3 victory at Killarney in May one of five chase wins for the J.P. McManus-owned gelding.
He disappointed on his latest start over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival, but appeared dangerously well handicapped for his latest assignment, running off a mark 26lb lower over the smaller obstacles compared to his rating over fences – plus his young rider’s 7lb claim.
There were plenty in with chances rounding the home turn, with Voix Du Reve holding a narrow lead jumping the second flight from home.
However, he was claimed by 9/2 shot Ballyoisin and 5/2 favourite Shanning and Bolger’s ace was always doing enough to win that particular battle by a length. Voix Du Reve boxed on to finish third.
O’Keeffe said: “I was delighted that Enda and Mr McManus gave me the opportunity in a race like that, and they have been very good to me since I started riding.
“I rode my first winner in Killarney and that’s my biggest win. I was like a child in a candy shop when I saw my name down to ride him. He’s a very good horse and had the form to prove that as well.”
Bolger said: "Frank (Berry) picked the race out. His chase wins this year were really good and he’s rated 157 over fences and 130 over hurdles, so that was the reason and it was a great pot to get. He’s happier going left-handed.
“Darragh was a good pony-race rider and he’s been with us now for the last 12 months. He’s getting plenty of experience over hurdles and fences, and he’s going the right way all right.”
Bolger added of the winner: “He’ll probably go back over fences again, and may go for the two-and-a-half-mile race in Gowran.
“The only thing he doesn’t want is deep winter ground. We’ll see how we get on in Gowran and that could be him until the spring again."
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