CIAN Quirke has started 2023 in good form and rode the first double of his career at Down Royal.

The 7lb claimer partnered The Gradual Slope (7/2) in the Franciscan Well Rated Novice Hurdle and steered the six-year-old gelding into a share of the lead at the final flight.

The pair stayed on well down the inner to lead on the line by a nose from Marelly who lost little in defeat. (Photo P67).

Trainer Sean O’Brien said: “Going down the inside probably won the race for him. He’s a young fella not short of confidence and he’s great value (for his claim).

“He will go for the three-mile handicap at Leopardstown (Dublin Racing Festival). He’ll obviously get in just right. Three miles is a bit of an unknown for him, but definitely worth a crack.

“He’s a horse that jumps well and he will actually like the nicer ground around Leopardstown. He ran really well in a novice handicap over two (miles) there.

“I’m delighted for Mark McDonagh (owner), he is not here but is a really good client of mine and has been very loyal, so it is great to get winners for a fella like that.”

The jockey picked up a one-day ban for careless riding when An Mhi ran short of room after the third-last flight and a further day for excessive use of the whip.


Quirke had half a length to spare when Angels Dawn (5/2) rallied in the final strides to land the Madra Excepcional Handicap Chase for trainer Sam Curling and owner Alfred Sweetnam.

The rider said: “I got a flier at the third-last and jumped into a horse and it probably gave her a bit more of a chance to take a step back and come around them.

“She galloped the whole way to the line and I’m pretty sure they will have plenty of fun with her.”

Quirke again drew the attention of the stewards as he received a three-day suspension for excessive use of the whip and for failing to allow his mount at least three strides to respond.

Elliott duo scoop a first and last

GORDON Elliott was another to register a Down Royal double. He took the opening Molson Coors Beverage Company Maiden Hurdle through Doctor Bravo (11/10) with Davy Russell in the plate.

This extended two-mile, one-furlong contest boiled down to a match between the market principals and it was Doctor Bravo who was stronger on the run-in as he put The Big Doyen (10/11 favourite) away by two and three-quarter lengths for Caldwell Construction Ltd.

Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse but probably wants a bit further. Davy said he did well because it was a messy race and he kind of got stuck in a pocket. He showed a good attitude and he said the best of him was from the last to the line.”

Russell was banned for three days in relation to a careless-riding incident after the second-last hurdle.

Taking performance

Elliott’s No Time To Wait put in a taking performance to run away with the Pravha INH Flat Race.

The 6/4 shot made all and moved clear in the final quarter of a mile. He kept on powerfully to win decisively by 15 lengths in the hands of Jamie Codd to give Caldwell Construction Limited

a brace on the card.

“He’s a big galloping horse. Look, he is a horse to go jumping in the future to be honest. He won’t jump a hurdle this year, he jumps well at home but is a horse for next year,” Elliott said.

Ready success

Gavin Cromwell’s Limerick Lace justified 8/11 favouritism in the extended two-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase with a ready eight-length success for J.P. McManus.

Luke Dempsey’s mount tracked the leader Irish Blaze from the sixth fence and went on after the penultimate obstacle.

After she stretched away for an easy win, Cromwell said: “I’m pleased with that and it is grand to get her to win one. I suppose you would love to pick up a bit of blacktype along the way. Yes, potentially (a nice handicap in her) and she will stay further.”

Gift rewards Rothwell patience with narrow victory

IT has been a long time between drinks for Karen’s Gift who brought up her second win over flights in the Coors (Mares) Handicap Hurdle.

Philip Rothwell’s nine-year-old mare led after the third-last flight, but was all out to see off 3/1 favourite Kalanisi Dubh by a head.

Jockey James O’Sullivan, in Robert Honner’s colours, said: “She was (tough) - dropping back in trip there today probably suited her and a bit better ground. The last day we just felt maybe over the two and a half (miles) that she probably didn’t get home.”

There was another thrilling finish in the two and a half mile Aspall Handicap Chase when Wee Small Hours (6/1) just held Aodhan May by a diminishing head for owner/trainer Michael Rice.

Jockey Dillon Maxwell said: “He’s a horse you wouldn’t think is a 14-year-old, you would say he is only six or seven the way he goes on.

“He was (second in this last year) and Michael told me to watch the race back and to hold on to him for as long as I could, and not to hit the front too soon on him or else he will just pull himself up.

“Coming to the second-last, we had still plenty of horse, so I said I would just ask him and he found more for me. He winged the last so I was happy.”