THE decision to continue racing grew more and more questionable as the day progressed at Ballycrystal on Sunday last, with Storm Isha bringing persistent heavy rain and strong winds.

While all in attendance were happy to depart the picturesque Wexford venue, there was none more so than Rob James, who came away with a treble.

An elder statesman of the weighroom, James initiated his three-timer aboard Little Miller (4/1) in the opening five-year-old mares’ maiden.

Appearing destined for second, the Robert Tector-trained winner was left in front when fellow debutante Ocean Brew unshipped Harry Swan after making a mistake at the last.

Bred by Tector’s sister, Emma, and owned by her partner, Aidan Byrne, the Court Cave bay needed to be ridden out in the closing stages to repel all challengers, with under two lengths separating the first four home.

“She was working really well and was in great order at home. She is a homebred and will probably head to the sales now,” Byrne remarked.

James again guided a debutante to victory in the six-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden, with the well-supported Millie Supreme (9/4 - 5/4 favourite) impressively dismissing her experienced rivals.

The first part of a double for Donnchadh Doyle and the Monbeg Syndicate, the £16,500 ThoroughBid purchase came from off the pace to lead before the second last, and she stretched clear when ridden on the run-in, coming home eight lengths to the good.

“She is a lovely mare and I was late getting her,” Doyle, who was registering his first winner of the season, commented.

“She has a good pedigree and will go for a winners’ race now in a couple of weeks.”

Justified favouritism

Patriotik (4/6 favourite) completed the James treble and Doyle brace, as he also justified his position at the head of the market in the concluding five-year-old and upwards confined maiden.

In a protracted tussle with Dark Soldier from three out, the French-bred victor appeared to be gaining the upper hand when left clear at the last.

A faller when still in with every chance at Tinahely in November, it was a measure of compensation for Patriotik, who came home 20 lengths clear of Shattered Soldier, the only other finisher in this six-runner affair.

“He had a couple of good runs. He was unlucky the day he fell at the last, and he had a lovely first run,” Doyle reflected.

“He will probably head to the sales. It looks like the horses are coming back to form and hopefully now we will get a good run with them.”

Nordener on track for Punchestown

A RETURN to Punchestown for a third tilt at the Ladies Cup is now firmly on the cards for De Nordener (6/4 - 2/1) after he comfortably dismissed his four rivals in the winners of two.

Held in a share of second when unseating after the last in open company at Turtulla the previous weekend, the Daniel Boland-owned eight-year-old showed no ill effects from that mishap.

Always towards the head of affairs under Toni Quail, the Ocovango bay skipped a few lengths clear from three out and soon had matters under control, going on to account for Prophet’s Corner by six-lengths.

“He was running a lovely race last weekend at Turtulla before he unseated,” winning handler Sam Curling stated.

“Derek O’Connor and Tom Keating recommended him and we got him for Toni to ride really.

“She is a big part of the team at home, she does a lot of work with the young horses and is a very good rider. She had injuries last year and it’s great for her to have a winner.

“He will probably go to Knockanard now and then we will aim him at the Ladies Cup at Punchestown.”

Popular success

There was a popular local success in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden, with Melbourne Shamrock (3/1 - 5/1) making virtually all under Brian Lawless for landowner Matthew Flynn O’Connor.

Pulled up on his sole previous start at Quakerstown in November, the €70,000 Tattersalls Derby Sale purchase clearly benefited from that experience.

Slow over the last, the Hillstar bay needed to be ridden out on the run-in to fend off newcomer Colonel Nelson, with the front pair drawing 12-lengths clear of the third.

“He just wasn’t ready the first day but has improved loads and has really come good in the last six to seven weeks,” Flynn O’Connor, who also owns the winner, explained.

“We always knew he had the ability, just getting it out of him was the thing. It was the plan to go out in front and he got in tight to the last, but he is just still a big baby.”

Murphy is back in action

ON an afternoon dominated by Wexford handlers, Denis Murphy got his name on the scoresheet courtesy of Backinaction (4/1 - 5/1) in the 12-runner six-year-old and upwards geldings’ maiden.

Second and fifth on his two previous starts, the Jack Hendrick-ridden bay made some mistakes on his way around but ultimately got to the front after two out and kept on well from there, coming home four lengths clear of Grange Soldier.

“He had a good first run here and Tinahely just didn’t suit him the last day. He’ll probably head for a winners’ of one now,” Murphy disclosed.

Horse to Follow

Colonel Nelson (M. Mullins): This Mount Nelson bay ran a race full of promise on debut, going down by just a length to Melbourne Shamrock.

He showed signs of greenness when drifting to his right on the run-in, and with this experience under his belt, he could very well go a place better on his next start.