THEY say you need lots of runners for a good race but that certainly wasn’t the case at Loughbrickland last Saturday where the four-runner open contest served up one of the races of the season thus far.

In the end, it was the two main protagonists, Winged Leader (4/5 - 4/6 favourite and Mighty Stowaway (1/1 - 5/4), who took each other on from the third last and they had a titanic battle from there to the finish with nothing to separate them at the line.

The David Christie-trained and John Hegarty-owned Winged Leader was ridden by the champion amateur Barry O’Neill who said: “That was a hell of a race for everyone to watch I’d say! It was a very good performance to take on a race-fit Mighty Stowaway, who is a fair horse in his own right, on his first run in those soft conditions.

“He had to be brave which he was. He’ll improve loads from that. He’ll step forward now and hopefully David will have a good campaign with him for the season.”

The Gordon Elliott-trained and Camilla Sharples-owned Mighty Stowaway was turning up just four days after running in a Fairyhouse hunter chase, and his winning rider, Rob James, commented: “It was a great race! We went a good, proper gallop the whole way.

“It was between myself and Barry from a long way out, it’s great to get a dead-heat out of it.

“He only ran on Tuesday but he just loves it and loves point-to-pointing. He relishes the soft ground and is a great horse to ride. Thanks to Camilla Sharples for giving me the ride.”

Both James and O’Neill rode doubles on the day with James’ kicking off in the opening division of the four-year-old maiden with Lost In Transit (3/1 - 4/1), who he also trains.

The winner, carrying the colours of the Matchmaker Syndicate, beat Issuing Authority and Brian Lawless by a length at the line.

“He’s a lovely horse. The ground is very soft, he loves soft ground. He’s a big horse and all he does is jump and stay going. Hopefully he’ll be sold now,” said James.

O’Neill completed his own double in the concluding older maiden, courtesy of the Cian Collins-trained Definitely Darsi (5/2 – 7/2).

The son of Darsi, who is owned by D V Shields, finished second last time out Loughanmore but went one better here, defeating the James Lambe-trained Henry Africa by two lengths after a good battle between the pair up the straight.

“He’s very tough and only does what he has to. He had a good run the last day and if I had known him a bit more the last day, I would’ve been a good bit closer. I fancied him today and Cian had him in great shape,” commented O’Neill.

Classy Hero bounces back

BRIAN Lawless and Matthew Flynn O’Connor narrowly missed out in the opening division of the four-year-old maiden but they gained due reward in the second, courtesy of High Class Hero (5/2 - 4/1).

The son of Sulamani had finished second on his debut behind Gordon Elliott’s exciting bumper prospect American Mike at Cork before disappointing last time.

He bounced back to form here though, with a four-length success over the Colin McKeever-trained Spirit Of Legend.

“He had a good run the first day, when second to a good horse of Gordon’s. I ran him at Loughanmore three weeks ago but he wasn’t fully fit. He needed that run.

“We’ve always liked him and his work at home has always been good. He was right today and the soft ground is key to him. He’ll go to the sales now,” said O’Connor of the winner, who was carrying his colours.

100th winner

The older mares’ maiden saw the biggest field of the day with 11 runners facing the starter and Burnt Ash (5/1 - 6/1) gained a deserved success on her sixth start between the flags.

The winner, carrying the colours of Elizabeth Hamilton, beat the Neil McCluskey-trained Hello Arlene by three lengths, to provide Ben Crawford with his 100th success between the flags.

“She has been knocking on the door a good few times now. The best of her track form was good enough to be winning any mares’ maiden really.

“Unfortunately, the owner Elizabeth Hamilton wasn’t able to be here today. She rarely misses one so at least I’ll be able to call her now and tell her that she has got the job done anyway!

“I’d imagine we’ll go back under rules with her again now,” said a delighted winning handler.

Gaelic Park is going ‘grand’

THE five-year-old geldings’ maiden saw the best-bred winner on the card with the half-brother to Grade 1 winner Chantry House, Gaelic Park (3/1 - 7/2), coming out on top for Patrick Turley and Declan Lavery.

The son of Ocovango stayed on really well up the straight to just head the Paul McAleese-trained Hymac on the line.

“He’s a grand horse. We missed the third last quite badly and I thought my race was gone but he’s very tough and he just stayed going. He’ll win plenty of races going forward and he has a good, staying pedigree. He’ll improve with time,” said Lavery of the Michael Conaghan-owned winner.

The winners’ contest saw plenty of drama with Diegos Way running out at the third last when holding every chance. That left the way clear for School Lane (3/1 - 4/1) to come through to score for Noel McParlan and Liam Lennon.

The son of Winged Love ran out a half-length winner from Dream On John and Declan Lavery. “He toughed it out today. He wasn’t as impressive as he was at Tattersalls but it was probably a week too soon for him.

“There’s nothing next week for him, though, so we just decided to take a chance with him,” said Lennon of the Caoimhe O’Hare-owned winner.

Horse to Follow

Hawaii Du Mestivel (P.J. Flood):

The son of No Risk At All was well-backed before the off and still held every chance when unseating his rider at the second last.