LAST Sunday’s Stonehall Harriers-fixture at Cragmore, the second of three scheduled fixtures to be run by the hunt this season, attracted a fine crowd and those present were treated to some thrilling action.

Handler Michael Goff’s return journey from the Limerick venue to his Wexford base was a shorter one as his debutant Clondaw General (6/1 - 8/1) took the five-year-old geldings’ maiden in fine style. Early on, Mikey Sweeney’s mount sat third as fellow first timers Dancingondaceiling and Gameofinches brought the 13-runner field along at a generous clip.

Finding plenty on climbing into the straight for the final time, Clondaw General took the measure of Gameofinches before the second last, and with Paul Cashman’s inmate exiting at the final fence, the eventual winner posted a three and half-length victory over Aboutdamntime.

“This is a good horse. He was due to run in November but picked up a stone bruise. He has a great mind and is very easy to do anything with. He’ll be sold now,” reflected Goff of the rare grey son of Milan whom he purchased for €48,000 at the 2002 Goffs Land Rover sale.

Off the mark

Out of luck aboard Aboutdamntime, Brian Lawless had earlier been on the scoresheet as Boombox Baby (5/2 - 3/1) got off the mark at the second attempt in the opening five-year-old mares’ maiden.

The Mattie Flynn O’Connor-owned and trained daughter of Milan, who had been a promising fourth in a Boulta younger mares’ maiden in November, joined issue with long-time leader Alright Darling at the third from home.

Soon forging clear with that rival, the €47,000 store purchase was clearly holding all the aces thereafter, and was in the region of two lengths clear when James Murphy’s mount fell at the last, leaving the winning bay to come home four lengths ahead of Harmony Heights.

“She’s a lovely mare who would have needed her first run badly. She was very green that day and has improved plenty for the experience,” said Flynn O’Connor. “She’s one we’ve always liked, and she’ll head on to the sales next.”

Class apart

On an afternoon which saw the eight bookmakers present fare best, the David Christie-handled Ramillies (2/5 favourite) was the sole winning market leader as he proved a class apart from his three rivals in the open lightweight.

Barry O’Neill, back aboard the Ramillies and Christie Family Syndicate-owned grey for the first time since October, will scarcely have partnered many easier winners as, having made all the running, the duo, who were a fence clear in the home straight, returned some 64 lengths to the good over Cloudy Tuesday.

“I really don’t do a whole lot with him at home only keep him fresh and happy. He only had a gallop around there today and that should leave him right for the hunter chase at Naas on the 10th of February. Following that, we’ll go on to the Foxhunters at Cheltenham,” outlined Christie.

Valentine shows

a great heart

TALLOW, Co Waterford-rider Stefan Tobin was once again seen to good effect aboard My Best Valentine (5/1 - 6/1), the sole mare, in the winners’ of one.

Successful aboard the Garry Aherne-trained daughter of Malinas in a Ballindenisk mares’ maiden three weeks previously, Tobin let his keen-running mount stride on after the third fence, and held enough in reserve for the latter stages to see off the determined effort of I Masked Du Potier by a diminishing head.

“That was great. She travelled very well for me at all stages and showed great heart to see it out when I needed her. She’s a mare who enjoys that type of ground so she may run again soon,” observed the winning rider of Daniel Joseph O’Brien’s charge.

A head was also the margin of victory in the closing six-year-old and upwards geldings’ maiden, a contest which saw the Tessa Foreman-owned Headcorn (4/1 - 6/1) make the breakthrough at the eighth attempt.

Derek O’Connor produced his mount to lead shortly after the third from home with Killomeroe and market principal Tory Hill giving chase but the latter soon emerged as the eventual winner’s principal danger.

With little still separating the pair on touching down after the last, the Michael Phillips-handled Headcorn, a half-brother to his owner’s fine servant Alongamongmillions, showed good reserves of stamina to just carry the day.

“This horse was in front in Dromahane last season when he fell, and it just took him some time to get over it. He’s been running well lately though. We’ll look for a hunters chase for him now,” stated Phillips of his recent Turtulla-fourth.

Mag makes progress

A TILT at a winners’ race is now on the cards for the Paul Pierce-handled Mad Mag (2/1 - 7/2) after she upstaged her more experienced rivals in the six-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden.

In another well fought out finish, the Soldier Of Fortune-debutante who sports the silks of the Blackhall Stables Partnership, came with a sweeping challenge to lead after two out under Sean Staples before fending off the attentions of the fast-finishing Glenetty by a length.

“We’re delighted as we thought she might need the run to be honest. Sean was very happy with her, and she should come forward from that again. We’ll find a winners’ race for her now,” remarked the winning trainer’s brother and successful breeder Andy Pierce.

Horse To Follow

Gameofinches (P. Cashman):

This British-bred son of Blue Bresil, who realised €80,000 as a yearling, was well-touted prior to his debut in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.

To the fore until headed by Clondaw General at the second last, the bay was in the region of two lengths down and held when falling at the last.

This initial foray offered distinct promise, however, and he should effortlessly atone before embarking on a successful track career.