Dorans River made his first start for Gordon Elliott a victorious one and gave Keith Donoghue a welcome comeback winner in the opening maiden hurdle at Downpatrick on Friday evening.
Sent off at 4/1, the seven-year-old swooped past Atlantic Breaker full of running rounding the home bend and quickly scooted clear for a three-and-a-quarter-length success in the hands of Donoghue, who was returning to race-riding after a self-enforced break due to weight issues.
Donoghue said: "It's nice to come back and get a winner. We didn't really know much about him, it was his first run for Gordon. He did it very well, he loved the ground and jumped brilliantly and did it easily."
And on his sabbatical from riding, he said: "It has been a struggle. When I went out my weight went up to 12st 10lb and I have it back around 11st 7lb now. I'm just going to do 11st 7lb as the lightest for a while and see what happens.
"There will be plenty of opportunities for Gordon in maiden hurdles and beginners' chases. I'm happy enough to do that."
Elliott had a second winner on the night when Station Closed, partnered by Denis O'Regan, took the 80-95 handicap hurdle at odds of 16/1.
There was a major pile-up in the early stages of the hunter chase when seven of the 11 runners came down on the bend past the stands. It's thought there were no serious injuries to the horses and riders involved. The race was won by 20/1 shot Miss Blanche (ridden by Richie Deegan) but only after the 9/4 favourite Eddies Miracle fell at the second last when holding a clear lead under Barry O'Neill.
The 0-102 handicap chase produced a great finish between two in-form young jockeys, Jody McGarvey and Rachael Blackmore. At the post it was McGarvey's mount Kilclispeen (trained by Joseph O'Brien for J.P. McManus) who defeated the Blackmore-ridden Admiral Bob by a head.
Punters who have backing horses pulled in by the stewards under the revised non-triers rule had another winner when Theturnofthesun won the beginners chase at 8/1. The Matthew Smith-trained gelding was having his first start since finishing third in the controversial Gowran Park race in March won by General Principle. Happily jockey Andrew Lynch, who was banned for that ride, was again on board this evening.
The closing bumper saw rider Patrick Mullins gain revenge over Danny Benson. The pair were involved in a tight finish at Clonmel on Thursday evening, when Benson was perhaps fortunate to keep the race in the stewards' room. There was no need for the stewards to intervene this evening as Mullins' mount Iolani swooped past Benson and Frankiefiveangels up the hill.
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