IT was a blustery day on the Ards Peninsula which made for tough racing conditions around Kirkistown.

Buckna (5/1– 4/1) made a very good impression on many racegoers for the first leg of Noel McParlan’s double as he powered clear for a comfortable victory in the opening four-year-old maiden.

The Ger Quinn-trained gelding was always close to the pace before picking up the lead after the second last.

As Paul Collins arrived up on his outside it looked like the son of Order Of St George was going to have a battle on his hands.

However, Buckna quickened again, stuck his head down and galloped right to the line to score by three and a half lengths under McParlan for owner Philip McBurney.

Very smart

“He was really impressive; we think he is very smart,” Quinn said. “He should be a top-class chaser in the making, he ticks all the right boxes.

“We knew he had loads of class, he always showed plenty at home.”

The second leg of the double for McParlan came in the concluding contest, race five, as the sixth race was cancelled due to the unavailability of a 4x4 ambulance.

Ballyphilip (8/13 - 4/5 favourite) coasted home in the shape of a good horse in the winners’ of one. Although it was a three-horse race, the top two in the market quickly dropped the outsider Sifaka. From there, the previous Farmacaffley winners set out to battle, however Cabaret Prince was only able to challenge Caroline McCaldin’s charge for a matter of strides, as he stamped his authority on the race off the home bend to ensure there were six lengths separated them at the line.

Winning owner Wilson Dennison stated: “I am delighted with him; I think he is a right horse in the making. He is for sale, as everything is for sale.”

Birmingham best in mares’ duel

THE five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden may not have looked the deepest contest on paper but it produced the most exciting finish of the day.

The favourite Mahler’s Dream made the most of the running and was only headed on the turn for home by two unexposed mares.

Approaching the last, Birmingham Alabama (3/1 - 4/1) and Cherry Brave took off at the same time but ultimately experience won it for Colin Bowe’s mare as she battled gamely to get up by a neck from the eye-catching newcomer.

Champion rider Barry O’Neill reported on his mount: “She was very tough; she had a nice run the first day, but our horses were not really firing.

Good owner

“She ran really well today though. She is owned by a good owner in Leo [McArdle], he may possibly sell her, or he has been known to keep a few for the track but we will have a chat with him and see.” The market viewed the open lightweight for novice riders as a one-horse race with Au Fleuron (1/3 - 2/5) going off long odds-on.

In the end, the market was right as David Christie’s charge duly obliged backing up his latest impressive victory on his return to between the flags at Punchestown in February.

In the box seat throughout under Shane Cotter, he picked off the long-time leader John The Spark early in the straight and readily quickened away from the two in behind to cross the line four and a half lengths clear of Ian Donoghue’s wide-margin Oldtown winner.

Well respected owner Ray Nicholas stated: “I’m delighted with him, that was a good performance there from both the horse and the jockey in bad weather conditions.

Good tonic

“It is a good tonic for me before going to Cheltenham next Friday with Ferns Lock [favourite for St. James’s Place Festival Hunter Chase], it is like having a winner under my belt already.

“This fellow will now progress through opens and move into hunter chases as that is my game.”

First winner on board for Kileff

THE five-year-old geldings’ maiden proved to be a major day in the career of Thomas Kileff who rode his first winner on only his third ride onboard Bold Fury (3/1 - 7/2).

On the basis of last week’s final fence fall at Tyrella, this son of Califet was a deserving winner to gain compensation for that unlucky departure when in front at the time.

Always cutting out the running, the Ross Crawford-owned and handled gelding was always in control and never looked in trouble to defeat the well-bred Chasingouttheblues by six and a half lengths on what was just his third start for Crawford.

“Probably last week a small bit of inexperience was shown by the jockey on only his second ride,” Crawford said.

“He was bought specifically for Thomas, and he is learning all the time. I would say he is not a bad horse now. He’s getting better with every run.

“Warren [Ewing] had him for his first few runs and probably didn’t fit Warren’s system, but he fits into ours well and he has done nothing but improve. “We will now either sell or go for a winners’ race, but we are still undecided.”

Horse to Follow

Brave Cherry (N. C. Kelly): On her debut, this daughter of Soldier Of Fortune went remarkably close under Oran McGill in the five-year-old mares’ contest.

She jumped and travelled well throughout the race, and it seemed experience cost her in the heat of battle on this occasion.

From a family of improvers with age along with natural progression this mare would have to go close on her next start.