THE first six-figure purse of the National Hunt season went the way of Gordon Elliott as Hurricane Georgie belied her tender years to run riot in the Axa Insurance Midlands National Handicap Chase.

In its first running as a Grade B handicap, this extended three-mile affair is the most prestigious race to be run at Kilbeggan and it produced an emphatic winner as the Pioneer Racing-owned mare scored by some 13 lengths under Jack Kennedy.

This time last year she had only run twice and it wasn’t until September that she tried fences, but since that initial success in a rated chase at Downpatrick she hasn’t looked back.

Hurricane Georgie (8/1) arrived here in great heart off two wins over hurdles and, after the race went smoothly, it was all looking ominous for her rivals when she loomed up into third with two to jump. She then eased to the front before the last and quickly moved clear to reach the line 13 lengths ahead of Popong.

“She won well and got a lovely, patient ride from Jack. Over the last year she has done nothing but improve and we knew she was in great form off her two wins over hurdles,” said the trainer.

“I suppose she will get an entry in the Galway Plate but things could happen a bit quickly there for her and maybe we might wait for the Kerry National.”

John Ryan, who was amongst the winners at Cork, sent out Waitnsee (11/1) to a gritty success in the Writech Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles. This Mark Fleming-owned mare looked held in third on the run to the last as the Mayo National hero Rock Road and Jack Hackett duelled for the lead. Danny Mullins conjured a powerful surge from his mount on the run-in though, and she swept by Rock Road in the last 50 yards to prevail by a length and three parts. The Galway Blazers Handicap Chase is next on her agenda.

Tough start to Kilbeggan for punters

KILBEGGAN’S biggest meeting of the year provided punters with a challenging start, to say the least, as odds-on favourites met with defeat in the first three races on the card.

The first to sink was Walk On The Moone who went off at 4/9 for the two-miles–three-furlong mares’ maiden hurdle, but she could manage only sixth behind Con O’Keeffe’s 100-rated Kilbarry Chianti (10/3).

A reliable type who had amassed eight top-four placings from her first 13 starts, the Mark McDonagh-ridden winner led before the last and got home by three-parts of a length from the 28/1 shot Knocknagappagh.

“She’s a homebred filly from a family that we’ve had for 16 or 17 years. She’s from a wonderful family, her dam is a half-sister to Tropical Lady,” stated the trainer.

A huge surprise was lying in wait in the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Maiden Hurdle where Ellen Doyle’s 66/1 chance Whatdoyouwanttoknow saw off the 50/1 shot Lonesome Day. This five-year-old was beaten a long way in a Punchestown maiden hurdle in late May on his racecourse debut but left that form miles behind under Gearoid Brouder.

Things didn’t look all that promising for the winner at one point on the final circuit but he began to get on top nearing the last flight and then stayed on dourly to come home 10 lengths ahead of Lonesome Day, while the 4/7 favourite The Folkes Tiara could only manage fourth. The winner is owned by the trainer’s brother, James.

“He works like a real good horse. He was very green at Punchestown the last day and even today he was babyish and when he got to the front he didn’t know what to do. There’s plenty of improvement in him,” stated the rider.

The evening ended on a much better note for punters as Spread Boss Ted won the near two-and-a-half-mile bumper at odds of 10/11. The Willie Mullins inmate began his career with a fourth to Marine Nationale in a smart-looking bumper at Punchestown in late May and took advantage of an appreciably less demanding assignment.

From some way out the Patrick Mullins-ridden and Roger Brookhouse-owned gelding looked to have matters in hand and he had any amount to spare in reaching the line nine lengths clear of the field.

“I think he’s going to be a proper horse in time. He’s more like a winter horse than a summer horse,” declared the champion trainer. “We’ll have a crack at a winners’ bumper with him. Galway might come around too soon but maybe Listowel would suit.”

Denis takes home the double with Everglow and Sargent Lightfoot

A GOOD evening for Denis O’Regan yielded a double which was completed by the 130-rated Everglow (9/2) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase over an extended three miles.

Noel Meade’s charge was a very deserving winner of this race, having shown up well in a number of decent beginners’ chases last season, and he had also started the current campaign with a couple of very solid runs. The Philip Munnelly-owned gelding had to fight hard to fend off Chinx Of Light on the run-in but he did so in game fashion to score by a head.

“He was very game. It was a great training performance, with him having only run a week ago (beaten by a neck at Wexford), and he had a hard race there too. He’ll be a nice horse for staying handicap chases,” remarked the jockey.

Adrian Murray supplied the rider with his opening winner of the night as Sargent Lightfoot (11/1) upstaged the 1/2 favourite Petrol Head in the 80-102 rated handicap hurdle over just short of two and a half miles.

Petrol Head was looking to follow up a win at Roscommon earlier in the week but couldn’t find a way past the winner. Admittedly the Martin McLoughlin-owned Sargent Lightfoot went left after the final flight and bumped the runner-up but he still had three and a quarter lengths to spare at the line and, as expected, the resulting stewards’ enquiry left the placings unchanged. Galway could now figure on the winner’s agenda.