A NEW circuit at Peppard’s Castle was originally scheduled to host this Island Hunt fixture, but owing to ground conditions, the venue was changed to Ballycrystal earlier this month.

Just as he did 13 days previously at Monksgrange, Rob James completed a treble and, in doing so, moved to within one of Barry O’Neill (25-26) in the race to be crowned champion rider.

James struck first aboard the Monbeg Syndicate-owned newcomer Fruit De Mer (5/2 -7/1), with this Pour Moi bay impressively dismissing seven rivals in the opening division of the four-year-old maiden.

Bought for €30,000 at the Goffs Arkle Sale, the Donnchadh Doyle-trained bay got to the front after four out and went on from early in the straight, coming home 16 lengths clear of the only other finisher Paul Collins.

Doyle’s partner Susan James, who is a sister of the winning rider, commented: “I own him with Jack Doyle and we think a lot of him. He was doing everything very well at home and he’ll head to the sales now.”

Combining with David O’Brien, James doubled his tally when steering Cloonainra (4/1) to a two-and-a-half length triumph in the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden.

Found plenty

Acquired for just €3,500 as a three-year-old, the William Cuddihy-owned victor got to the front before three out and found plenty for pressure in the straight.

“Rob rode her the first day in Lisronagh and said she was travelling well when she overjumped the one down the hill and fell over,” O’Brien revealed.

“She was out for a while after that, but it has stood to her, as she is good and strong now.”

James had luck on his side in the mares’ open, as he guided Millie Supreme (11/4 - 5/2 joint-favourite) to a fortuitous half-a-length win.

Completing a double for Donnchadh Doyle, the Monbeg Syndicate-owned six-year-old appeared held in second after two out, as the front-running Peggy’s Rock increased her advantage.

However, that one blundered badly at the last and was headed in the final strides after struggling to regain her momentum on the run-in.

“She is a grand mare and I got a bit lucky, but they are there to be jumped,” James said.

Sacre shows some style

KARA Sacre (6/4 favourite) is sure to have caught the attention of many potential suitors, after he dismissed seven rivals in the second division of the four-year-old maiden.

Out of a sister to the great Sprinter Sacre, the Sam Curling-trained French-bred was given a patient ride by Derek O’Connor, making progress from four out.

He blundered at the next when almost disputing the lead, but recovered quickly and soon got to the front, stretching clear in the closing stages to register a comfortable six-length success.

“He is a lovely horse that has always shown us plenty,” Curling, who also owns the Karaktar bay, disclosed.

“He just stood off the third last but still won well. He will be a lovely two-mile horse and he jumps very well.”

Fresh from his Foxhunters success at Aintree on Thursday, O’Connor had to settle for second aboard Too Cool Forshrule in the first division of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.

Trained and ridden by Luke Murphy, Committee Meeting (8/1 - 10/1) claimed this 13-runner affair, providing his young handler with a third success of the campaign.

Down the field on debut at Lingstown in December, the €10,000 Tattersalls May Store Sale purchase made a decisive move to the front after four out and kicked a few lengths clear from the next.

While Too Cool Forshrule tried hard to chase him down on the run-in, there was a length and a-quarter between them at the line.

Kept going

“He is a nice horse but for some reason he just didn’t act the first day. He was in front a long way from home today but kept going anyway,” Murphy reflected.

“I own him with James Kenny [the L and J Partnership] and he’ll probably be sold now.”

The concluding six-year-old and upwards maiden saw Mickthesoldier (5/2 – 3/1 co-favourite) dominate from the front under Mike Kenneally.

Trained and bred by Denis Ahern and owned by his wife Norah, the Soldier Of Fortune six-year-old kicked clear before three out and despite a mistake at the next, he kept on well in the closing stages to record a comfortable eight-length success.

“He was second in Dromahane and I honestly don’t know what happened him the last day at Cork. I thought he’d run well in that bumper but he just never went around,” Ahern divulged.

Road rises up for an easy win

WITH the benefit of ‘home advantage’, landowner Matthew Flynn O’Connor combined with Brian Lawless for a brace, which was initiated by the well-backed Rucker Road (9/4 - 7/4 favourite) in the second division of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.

An eye-catching third on debut at Lisronagh last month, the €30,000 Goffs Land Rover Sale purchase was given a confident ride and was poised to challenge in second on the run to three out.

Sent to the front before the next, he soon skipped a few lengths clear with the minimum of fuss and came home four lengths to the good.

“He ran well the first day at Lisronagh and he is a nice big horse who is about 16.3hh. He’ll head to the sales now,” Flynn O’Connor, who also owns the bay victor, remarked.

Lawless had an even easier time of it on Je Viens Du Large (6/1 – 7/1), the only five-year-old in the 10-runner winner of one.

One of two maidens in the line-up, the €80,000 Goffs Land Rover Sale graduate made steady progress through the field and quickly went clear after hitting the front approaching three out.

Well held in second, Asphalt Cowboy ran out at the last, as the Cullen House Syndicate-owned victor sauntered to a 56-length success from The Brickey Ranger, the only other finisher.

“We bumped into one the last day in Soldier In Milan who is a good horse. He done it well today and will be sold now,” Flynn O’Connor stated.

Horse to Follow

El Toro Rocco (Emmet Mullins): While ultimately no match for Rucker Road, this Shirocco chestnut produced a career best performance to fill the runner-up spot.

Encouragingly, he drew 10-lengths clear of the third and it’ll be interesting to see if he can build on this effort.