AN excellent afternoon for Joseph O’Brien yielded an across the card four-timer as the trainer added to his Naas brace with a double at Killarney which featured an impressive victory for Celestial Horizon in the Grade B Kelly Farm Modernisation Ltd Handicap Hurdle.

The J.P. McManus-owned four-year-old looked all the better for a creditable handicap debut at Fairyhouse over Easter and is now firmly in the reckoning for the Galway Hurdle after dominating the closing stages of this race. J.J. Slevin sent Celestial Horizon to the front early in the straight and the Fastnet Rock gelding maintained a strong gallop to finish seven lengths ahead of Rich Belief.

“He had a good run at Fairyhouse and learnt a lot from that run,” remarked the owner’s racing manager Frank Berry. “He jumped better today and they have done a fantastic job on the ground here – it’s probably the slow side of good and he appreciated it. The Galway Hurdle would look the obvious race for him now.”

The first leg of the O’Brien double came courtesy of the experienced Igraine in the Killarney Towers Maiden Hurdle where she ended a run of three consecutive second place finishes.

In the colours of Justin Carthy, this Camelot filly was sent to the front by J.J. Slevin off the last bend and the 6/4 favourite readily asserted to finish 11 lengths clear of Vocito.

Tom on top

The McManus colours were also carried to victory by Stealthy Tom in the 0-109 rated Shay Rooney Handicap Chase over two and a half miles.

Enda Bolger’s charge was a very well backed 5/4 favourite to build on a second to Hurricane Darwin in a cross country chase at the Punchestown Festival and he made a seamless transition back to regulation chasing. Shane Fitzgerald’s mount was probably value for more than the winning margin of two and three quarter lengths as he added to a victory at this track last October. Stealthy Tom could well return to Killarney for the July Festival.

Anna bounces back for McConnell

JOHN McConnell pulled off a notably impressive training performance in the Listed Easyclean Tourist Attraction Mares Hurdle as Anna Bunina turned out in great order just eight days after a fifth place finish in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock to add to her increasingly impressive profile.

The Caroline Ahearn-owned six-year-old suffered a potentially career-ending injury over a year ago but has been nursed back to full health by her trainer and she added this prize to her victory in last month’s Scottish Champion Hurdle.

The victorious 4/1 chance was pressing the front-running outsider Hidden Land for the lead nearing the last flight and got on top for Simon Torrens early on the run-in to defeat Heia by a length with the favourite Santa Rossa fading to fifth.

“John (McConnell) is a magician,” declared the rider. “I was worried it might be coming too soon for her after Haydock but he said she was in great order and it’s a great performance from all the team to turn her out in such good form for this.”

Henry de Bromhead has a nice novice on his hands for the summer months in Marvel De Cerisy (4/7) who totally outclassed his opponents in the Seamus Weldon John Deere Maiden Hurdle over an extended two miles.

The five-year-old’s second to Meet And Greet and in a Naas maiden in February looked a standout piece of form here and he bore out that view in commanding style. Rachael Blackmore had the Caolan Woods-owned winner showing in front before three out and the pair stretched further and further clear in the straight to eventually score by 17 lengths.

Improving Flamingo back in front

FRESH from a creditable showing in the Irish National, Max Flamingo took advantage of a good opportunity to win the Gerard O’Sullivan Memorial Novice Chase over just short of three miles.

Jack Kennedy took the mount on the Francis Casey inmate, who was beaten less than nine lengths into seventh behind Lord Lariat on Easter Monday, and the pair took charge in assured fashion from the turn-in. The evens favourite approached the last with a decent lead and went on to record a comfortable four-length triumph.

“He was a bit unlucky in running in the Irish National and he has done nothing but improve - he’s put on 25 kilos since that run,” declared Francis Casey. “He’s improving all the time but he needs a break so I’d say we might give him a month off and then we’ll see where we are.”

Jack Kennedy brought up a double on Gordon Elliott’s Say Goodbye in the Donie Sheahan Irish EBF Mares Beginners Chase.

The Robcour-owned daughter of Getaway was a useful hurdler last season and should enjoy a decent summer on this evidence. The 3/1 joint favourite led at the third last and soon held a good lead which saw her come home 10 lengths ahead of Effernock Fizz.

“She jumped great and I just could have done with a bit of company in the straight as she was very lairy in front. She’s a nice mare and should make up into a nice chaser,” stated the rider.

The day concluded with a very well-backed winner of the Killarney Oils-sponsored bumper in the Gary Noonan-ridden Lipa K who struck for Athea-based Eoin McCarthy.

This Saorcha Fitzgerald-owned son of Mamool was backed from as big as 33/1 into 5/1 and produced a taking effort. He was travelling nicely and seemed to have everything covered entering the last couple of furlongs although he did need the line late on as a rallying Felix Summus got back to within half a length at the finish.

“I think he’s a very good horse and we’ve been minding him since January,” reflected McCarthy. “I brought him away to work on grass one day and I wasn’t able to sleep for a couple of days afterwards. He will probably be sold but I’d love to keep him in the yard.”