THE high-class Easy Game made it back-to-back wins in the €40,000 Kerry Group Chase to head a tremendous opening day of the meeting for Willie Mullins who reeled off an impressive four-timer.
Now a 14-time winner from 32 starts, the 5/6 favourite turned in a rare below-par effort in the Galway Plate last time but was back on song here with a dominant display against a depleted field. Paul Townend’s mount turned in a polished effort up front and was untroubled for much of the race, while The Little Yank fell at the fifth and Call My Lyreen exited at the fourth last. This left the Nicholas Peacock-owned runner with just stablemate Kemboy to deal with in the closing stages and that one was readily brushed aside from the turn in as the market leader drew clear to score by 11 lengths. This was the third year in succession that just two horses finished the race.
“He did it well and Paul said he was jumping out of his skin. The plan for him now would be to go on to Gowran early next month for the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase,” said Mullins. “The owners are keen to bring Kemboy to Far Hills for the American Grand National next month and that’s where he might go now.”
Grade 3 target
A step up to Grade 3 level is the plan for the Mullins-trained Nikini (5/6) after she made it two wins from as many starts over timber in the Kerry Group Irish EBF Mares Hurdle.
The daughter of Sea Moon faced a stiffer test than when winning her maiden hurdle at Kilbeggan last month and she produced a nice effort to account for some capable rivals while leaving the impression that she can do better still.
Nikini raced a shade keenly for Paul Townend over the course of this two-and-a-half-mile affair but had plenty left in reserve for when it mattered and comfortably contained the 117-rated Hollymount by a length and a quarter. Also a listed-placed bumper performer last term, the five-year-old is owned by the Gorm Agus Ban Syndicate.
“They went very slow which probably suited and we wanted to come here to jump the birch hurdles before she goes to Down Royal for the Grade 3 mares novice hurdle,” stated Patrick Mullins.
Aghaboy got the day off to a successful start for the champion trainer with an all-the-way triumph in the Kerry Group 3-Y-O Hurdle.
The 5/2 shot was able to dictate matters throughout for Townend and found plenty in the straight when the previous dual winner The Insider loomed up with a menacing effort. The Peter Fitzgerald-owned gelding produced a decent jump at the final flight and landed running to defeat his aforementioned opponent by two lengths.
Aghaboy could bid to extend his winning sequence in a winner’s event at Punchestown next month.
Polo Lounge (7/4) brought up a four-timer as he built on a series of creditable runs in defeat in the Kerry Group (Pro/Am) Flat Race.
The recent Killarney second had to bide his time to get into the clear in the straight and it looked as if he might have work to do at this point, but once he made his bid he settled the outcome quickly for Patrick Mullins and reached the line just under four lengths ahead of One For Lucy, whose trainer Eoin McCarthy sent out three seconds over the course of the day.
“I’ll chat to his owner Malcolm Denmark but I’d say he’ll go hurdling now and he will have a break through the winter. He likes this ground,” reported Mullins.
Energy off to a winning start
AFTER starting the day with a couple of second place finishers Gordon Elliott then notched up a double which was completed by Chemical Energy (11/10) in the Strings & Things Rated Novice Chase over an extended two miles.
This useful Caldwell Construction-owned six-year-old struggled on his chasing debut in April but returned in much better heart on his first run since then. Davy Russell’s mount did make a couple of notable errors but recovered well on both occasions and surged clear of this field after three out to open up a commanding lead.
Mattie’s Mountain gave chase in the straight but could never get close enough to mount a telling challenge as Chemical Energy prevailed by two and a quarter lengths.
“He does want further but he goes well fresh and I know he made a couple of mistakes but he jumped well in the main,” said Elliott. “I’ve nothing definite in mind for him but he should make a nice novice for the season.”
The first leg of Elliott and Russell’s brace was provided by Run For Pat (11/4) in the Dairygold Maiden Hurdle over three miles.
The consistent 109-rated five-year-old had been running to a solid level all season and took advantage of what looked a gilt-edged opportunity after the odds-on favourite What Path (clinically abnormal post race) pulled up with a circuit to run. Run For Pat struck for home before the turn in for Davy Russell and kept on steadily to reach the line just over three lengths ahead of Battle Of Mirbat.
“It’s great for the Sloans who are big supporters and they’ll get a great kick out of this,” Elliott said. “He jumped well, stays well and deserved that. Davy feels he’ll be better over fences but I think we’ll stay hurdling now.”
Ray Cody continued his fruitful association with the Harvest Festival as he produced Highland Penny (5/1) in great shape off a 107-day absence to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle.
A winner of a Tramore maiden hurdle on her most recent outing, the daughter of Doyen dominated this race from the front for Jack Foley and crossed the line nicely clear of Shannon Gray.
“I thought she might need the run but she travelled and jumped all the way and got a great ride from Jack. She’s only back from a break so she will stay going and there might be something for her at Gowran early next month,” declared Cody who trains the winner for Paddy and Rhona MacKenzie.