THERE were northern-trained winners over the first two days of the Punchestown Festival but two riders had a winner apiece while the colours of Randox’s Peter FitzGerald were carried to victory in Wednesday’s Grade A OMC Claims Handicap Chase on the Willie Mullins-trained Royal Rendezvous.

Downpatrick’s Deckie Lavery rode a short-priced bumper winner, Hartur d’Arc, at Cork over Easter for Tom Gibney but Absolute Notions, his successful mount in Tuesday’s Goffs Land Rover Bumper, was a 25/1 shot when bringing up a four-timer for his trainer, Gordon Elliott.

Lavery gave the four-year-old newcomer a well-judged ride which saw the bay son of Milan go clear inside the final furlong and score by six and a half lengths with his ears pricked.

Sam Ewing had four rides on the flat on Saturday at Navan but just the one ride over the first two days at Punchestown.

Made count

However, he made it count when landing Wednesday’s Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final on the Peter Fahey-trained Ambitious Fellow who was sent off as a 40/1 shot on his second start over hurdles.

Ewing’s father Warren was among northern vendors at the Tattersalls Cheltenham April Sale last Friday when his Getaway gelding, Breaking Cover (Lot 34), who finished runner-up in a four-year-old maiden at Taylorstown at the start of the month, was knocked down to Anthony Honeyball for £95,000.

The next lot into the ring, He’s Ultimate, was purchased by Mouse O’Ryan and Gordon Elliott for £105,000. Consigned by Downpatrick’s Patrick Turley, the Champs Elysees bay finished second in a four-year-old geldings’ maiden at Loughanmore over Easter in the colours of his owner, one Deckie Lavery. O’Ryan and Elliott also gave £68,000 for Turley and Lavery’s Malinas bay, Shecouldbeanything (Lot 57), who won a five-year-old mares’ maiden at the same East Antrim meeting.

Another winner from that fixture to change hands on Friday was the Stuart Crawford-trained Largy Force (Lot 61) who, on her debut, landed the opening four-year-old mares’ maiden under the trainer’s brother Ben. The daughter of Workforce was purchased for £85,000 by Highflyer Bloodstock.

One horse returning to Northern Ireland is Marronstown (Lot 33) who landed a five-year-old geldings’ maiden at Farmacaffley in February on his only start for the Crawfords.

The Frozen Fire bay was purchased for £35,000 by David Christie and Barry O’Neill. As mentioned in the sales report last week, Harold Kirk was busying buying for the Willie Mullins yard while Kevin Ross signed for one lot.

Punchestown Sale

Ewing had two lots catalogued in Thursday’s Goffs Punchestown Sale, the second of them being First Venture (Lot 9), a daughter of Soldier Of Fortune who won the opening four-year-old mares’ maiden at Fairyhouse last Sunday in the hands of Dara McGill.

The five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden at that Meath and Tara fixture was won by the Ross O’Sullivan-trained Lady Mendoza who had fallen on her only previous start at Belclare last month. The 2017 Court Cave mare, who was an €18,000 purchase as a three-year-old by Brian Hamilton, is owned by Hillsborough’s Alistair Thompson and Barry McMurray.

Down in Monksgrange, the mares’ maiden was won by the Aidan Fitzgerald-trained newcomer The Moon Sea’s Me. That Sea Moon five-year-old bay runs in the colours of Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe who bred the bay in partnership with Michael Cave. She was due to come up as Lot 16 at Thursday’s Punchestown Sale where the Cave-owned Castleward, a winner recently of a five-year-old geldings’ maiden at Dromahane, was catalogued as Lot 5.

Hughes ends on 204 mark

THERE was no fairytale ending to the British National Hunt season at Sandown on Saturday for champion jockey Brian Hughes but, thanks to a treble at Perth the previous afternoon, he finished the campaign on the 204-win mark. The south Armagh native was also among the winners at the Scottish track the previous afternoon as was Downpatrick-born Danny McMenamin.

During a campaign which was interrupted by injury McMenamin, who was last season’s champion conditional jockey, managed to partner 31 winners.

Co Sligo-born Derek Fox closed out the season with 34 wins to his credit, highlighted by his successes on the Lucinda Russell-trained pair of Ahoy Senor (Grade 1 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree) and Corach Rambler (Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham).