THE 2023-24 season commenced on Sunday with the Westmeath Foxhounds meeting at Castletown-Geoghegan and the Pat Doyle-trained Brave Fortune lit up the fixture by destroying the opposition in the four-year-old maiden - the race that attracted the biggest field of the day in 12 runners.

Brave Fortune (3/1 - 4/1) brought an unusual profile to the table considering that he finished a more than creditable seventh on his only previous start in the Goffs Defender bumper at the Punchestown Festival and he tracked the frontrunning Boolamore Classic for most of the journey, always taking the eye on the outer with Pa King.

The winning son of Soldier Of Fortune, also a half-brother to unbeaten Willie Mullins-trained youngster Friends, bounded to the front approaching the second last fence and it was plainly clear that he was in command thereafter.

This €115,000 Goffs Land Rover sale acquisition stormed clear to account for Boolamore Classic by a widening 15 lengths. Meanwhile, the grey Judicial Deference fared best of the four newcomers by returning a further two and a half lengths adrift in third.

“He’s a lovely horse who I’ve always liked and he ran a nice race at Punchestown” Doyle said of Bold Fortune, a mid-June foal who is shared by Linda Mulcahy from Douglas and Mary Wolridge, who resides in London.

The Suirview Stables operator added: “Today was the plan and I was delighted when the rain came. We’ll have a think and see where we go from here.”

Turley on top

The six bookmakers present were left grimacing following the authoritative victory of Paddy Turley’s well-supported newcomer Lecale Way (6/4 – 4/6 favourite) in the six-year-old and upwards maiden.

Lecale Way, a €28,000 acquisition at the 2020 Tattersalls Ireland August Sale, always travelled sweetly for Declan Lavery and he was clearly possessing too many aces for Beau’s Candle before the last with four lengths the winning margin.

Turley indicated that his wife Mary’s son of Getaway will now contest a winners’ race.

No stopping top combination’s brace

COLIN Bowe and Barry O’Neill are always a combination to be feared at Castletown-Geoghegan and they again combined for a double.

The pair opened their account courtesy of Emily’s Choice (9/4 - 2/1 favourite), owned and bred by Bendan Murphy from Bunclody, in the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden.

Emily’s Choice, the form choice considering that she finished second on three consecutive occasions last term - most notably when losing out by a short head to Melleray Hill at this same venue in April - moved through to track the front-running Fine As Wine from halfway.

There was little to separate the pair from three out until the eventual winner edged into a slender advantage on the outer approaching the second-last. The winning daughter of Kalanisi however then had to withstand the challenge of Apples In Winter in the closing stages, with a neck separating the duo in what was the day’s closest finish.

Fine As Wine more than acquitted herself by securing the minor honours, a further four and a half lengths adrift.

“She’s a solid mare who deserved that as she was a bit unlucky last season,” O’Neill said of Emily’s Choice.

Tequila comes up trumps

Agent Tequila (3/1 - 4/1) completed the Bowe-O’Neill brace by landing the five and six-year-old geldings’ maiden in the familiar Milestone Bloodstock Ltd silks.

Agent Tequila, a respectable fifth behind Captain Butler at Monksgrange in March, gave his supporters some cause for alarm by blundering five out. However, the winning son of Getaway was soon on an even keel and he overtook long-time leader Cresthill just after the third-last. Whilst having to be ridden along on the descent to the last, he was never in any real danger and his closest pursuer Cash Cut was in the region of 12 lengths in arrears when cruelly exiting here.

It was Thatshalfthebattle who duly inherited second spot, some 14 lengths adrift of Agent Tequila.

Landmark afternoon for Fennell

JAMES Fennell, a 19-year-old who hails from just outside Dungarvan, will forever treasure fond memories of this meeting as he posted an initial career success aboard his boss Declan Queally’s mare Intersky Sunset (2/1 - 9/4) in the winners’ of two.

Intersky Sunset, who was beaten over 65 lengths into fifth spot by Sharjah in a Galway beginners’ chase on August 1st, led from after a mile until overtaken by Zela Bella after three out. The winning daughter of Libertarian regained the initiative at the second last and she was well in command on the run to the final fence.

A good jump here put the issue beyond all doubt as the victorious six-year-old, representing her handler’s wife Bernie, returned with six lengths to spare over Luke Burke-Ott’s mount Zela Bella.

The indications are that Intersky Sunset, who has a handicap mark both over hurdles and fences, will now run in a mares’ winners’ of two.

Brickley makes his mark

Finn Brickley, having partnered his first career winner on Grannys Yaris for Nigel Slevin in a Tramore bumper in mid-August, opened his account in point-to-points aboard Gordon Elliott’s The Bosses Oscar (2/1 - 5/4 favourite) in the novice riders’ open.

The former 150-rated hurdler, who also finished second in the 2021 renewal of the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, got into a lovely rhythm as Jack Hackett took the 10-runner field along at a decent clip.

The Bosses Oscar hit the front before three out and, whilst runner-up Garm Colombe momentarily threatened danger approaching the last, the Noel and Valerie Moran-owned son of Oscar strode clear to beat Aidan Fitzgerald’s charge by eight lengths.

Brickley, a 17-year-old Skibbereen native, also works with Elliott, who was on hand to welcome back The Bosses Oscar. It seems likely that the eight-year-old will stay pointing for the foreseeable future.

Horse to Follow

Judical Deference (C. Bowe): This €30,000 Goffs Land Rover sale graduate, a close relation to Champion Chase winner Special Tiara, made nice progress before three out in the four-year-old maiden. While beaten over 17 lengths into third spot, the Jukebox Jury-sired newcomer still performed with immense credit and he should prove worthy of support the next day.