J.J. SLEVIN took the riding honours at this well-attended New Year’s Eve meeting when partnering a 179/1 double highlighted by the feature race success of San Salvador in the €40,000 Tote.ie Never Beaten By SP Tara Handicap Hurdle.
The five-year-old gelding was building on a promising second at Cork last month although was easy enough in the market at 11/1.
Slevin took the initiative when quickening his mount into a clear lead off the home turn and held on well on the run-in to beat Captain Conby by a length and three-quarters – the pair pulling 10 lengths clear in what appeared a competitive 19-runner handicap.
“The race worked out lovely for him. He got a nice position, made one mistake down the back but otherwise jumped very well through the race,” said Joseph O’Brien, who trains the gelding for the Annus Mirabilis Syndicate. “We’ll see what the handicapper does and he’ll be going for another good handicap somewhere.
The Carriganog trainer was full of praise for Slevin who was earlier seen to good effect aboard Notice To Close in the two-mile–seven-furlong SP Or Better Guaranteed With Tote Handicap Chase.
Trained by Seamus Neville for his wife Ina, the grey son of Martaline was prominent throughout and a better jump at the last proved crucial as he just held off the renewed challenge of Angels Dawn by a short head.
“He’s a hardy boy and he liked that ground and trip. His point-to-point form was strong enough when he beat Snow Falcon in Dromahane and we thought if he reproduced that he’d be bang there,” said Slevin of the 14/1 winner.
Must Be Obeyed was also prominently ridden to win the other race over fences, the Tote Always SP Or Better At Punchestown Beginners Chase.
The Mustameet mare has proved troublesome at the start in the past but was on her best behaviour here, staying on strongly on the run-in for Darragh O’Keeffe to beat 10/11 favourite Shantreusse by a length and a half in this two-mile–seven-furlong event.
“I knew she would love the ground (soft to heavy) and we’ve been looking to try her over a trip for a good while. Staying chasing is what we always hoped she would end up doing,” said Tom Gibney, who trains the 18/1 winner for Frank Daly and Lorna Groarke.
Sam suited by a return to hurdles
SAINT Sam successfully reverted to the smaller obstacles when taking the Tote Proudly Sponsoring At Punchestown Hurdle in decisive fashion.
Available at 4/1 overnight, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was heavily backed into evens favourite and didn’t give his supporters any worries in this extended two-miles–three-furlong race.
Paul Townend elected to make the running on the Edward Ware-owned gelding who was in command from before the last to score by six and a half lengths. Any Second Now, placed in the last two renewals of the Grand National, made a pleasing return to action staying on late into second.
Mullins said: “We decided to come back over hurdles with him and it might be the right thing to do going out in trip with him. He likes to get on with the job so Paul let him get on with it today.
“He put in some tremendous jumps and I think if he settles a little better over hurdles that might be his career for the near future. Otherwise, I’ll mix it with him over fences.
“I want to get him out in trip. He’s bred to stay further but he races a bit keenly. I think he’ll settle down once he gets used to racing over a longer trip.”
Allen keeps the dream alive
ANDY Slattery’s dream of having a first runner at the Cheltenham Festival in March is still alive after Sir Allen landed the Play The Tote Exacta On Every Race 3YO Maiden Hurdle.
The 7/2 chance was one of three in the air together at the last but Cian Quirke’s mount kept on best in the closing stages to beat Calico by two lengths.
“He’s a nice horse and since the first day he started jumping hurdles he seems to enjoy it. There is a four-year-old novice in Naas in mid-February and we’ll go there and give him an entry in Cheltenham. We’ll see what happens with the handicapper,” said Slattery of the Eight Star Syndicate owned gelding.
“Cian was saying he needs to run in a better race because they are going too slow for him. He’s too free and needs a faster pace.”
Little Mixup followed up a win at Limerick earlier in the week by defying a welter burden of 12st6lb in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.
The 3/1 favourite led just before the last and kept on well for Tommy Brett to beat Caoimhes Pet by nearly three lengths.
“He missed a year with an injury and it took a while for him to get into gear. I’m delighted for Mark and Lorraine (McDonagh). It’s great they have stuck with him and hopefully he’ll win again,” said trainer Denis Hogan.
“It was a great performance under the weight as he’s only 15.1hh and the jockey couldn’t claim in the race. He’ll have to go up a grade now and might be better in a better race with a lighter weight.”
On a day of mixed fortunes for punters, Magic Dawn caused a 28/1 surprise in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares (Pro/Am) Flat Race.
The Doyen full-sister to Magic Daze, bred nearby in Michael Hickey’s Sunnyhill Stud and trained by Hickey for his wife Sheelagh, quickened clear over a furlong out under Aidan Kelly before holding on by a diminishing three-quarters of a length from Abi’s Champ.
“She has a great pedigree. That’s three runners out of the mare now and three winners. She’s a fine big mare and I’m glad I didn’t sell her.
“She was only making 12 grand at the sales and will make a nice broodmare,” said a delighted Hickey.