WARREN Ewing enjoyed the perfect start to his spring campaign in the northern region with a double raising his strike rate for the season to 35% in the process.

Bective Abbey (5/1 - 7/1) initiated the Ewing double in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden by recording a visually impressive five-length victory under Dara McGill, who gave the winner an ultra-confident ride.

The newcomer showed plenty of gears and raw ability to win going away, despite still looking plenty green throughout.

The Michael Shanahan-bred gelding sprinted clear to the last, putting daylight between himself and all other opposition and is now set to be offered for sale following his defeat of Ballyfinn.

“We have always really liked him, we wanted to give him a bit of time. He was very tough, and he did it very nicely.


“He is still big and raw, and he was green out there, there will be loads of improvement to come from him,” McGill said. “I’d say he will go straight to the sales now and will make a lovely prospect for the future.”

It was the former American National and Cheltenham International Hurdle winner Brain Power (1/2 - 4/7 favourite), who provided Ewing and McGill with their second winner of the day in the open.

The 12-year-old, who won the corresponding race last year, brought his tally for the campaign to four for the season by tracking the leaders throughout under a patient McGill, as it wasn’t until the second last that the gelding pounced on the long-time leader Samurai Cracker.

McGill only had to briefly ask Brain Power to extend in the home straight to win by two and a half lengths.

Very easy

“I was always travelling very easy through the race, and I only had to ask him to extend coming into the home straight. That’s four he has won this season and he is up there with the top open horses this year,” the winning rider said.

“Warren [Ewing] has the horses in super form, and we could perhaps now look at a tilt at the Foxhunters at Cheltenham.”

Noel McParlan recorded his sixth winner of the season when teaming-up with the Caroline McCaldin-trained Gorthill (2/5 - 1/2 favourite) in the winners-of-three.

The Wilson Dennison-owned Rail Link gelding looked very hard to oppose on paper, having chased home the now four-time winner Ultimate Optimist at Loughnamore on his first start in winners’ company back in October.

Leading from pillar to post under a motionless McParlan, Gorthill was an effortless winner, who never seemed to come out of second gear to oblige by 12 lengths. The manner of victory suggests that he will be a force to be reckoned with in winners’ events and beyond this season.

“He had the form in the book, and ultimately looked the class horse coming into the race. He jumped well for me the whole way round, and when I asked him to pick up, he did so, with ease,” McParlan said.

Mousey makes stylish win debut

LAST year’s Irish Grand National winning handler Dermot McLaughlin got off the mark in the older mares’ maiden courtesy of his newcomer Mousey Brown (3/1 - 2/1 favourite).

A shrewd €5,200 purchase in 2020, the daughter of Califet was handled with plenty of confidence by John Barry and made stylish headway to join the long-time leader Neat Locality at the second last.

When Barry knuckled down on the mare, she found plenty for his urgings and scooted into a four-length advantage approaching the last. Despite being eased at the finish, the Alan Smith-owned mare still proved nine lengths too good for her rivals.

“She was doing some nice work at home, and Dermot likes her, so I knew she’d have a big chance today. I was always travelling well within myself, and she has really shown gears to put the race to bed,” Barry said.

Gutsy performance

Clonmel handler Tom Keating registered his first success of the season with a gutsy performance from U Asking Me (8/1 - 10/1) in the older maiden to provide rider Hannah Phillips with the third winner of her career.

Making most of the running, the son of Ask was only headed approaching the second last, when finding again under Phillips’ urgings, leading a line of three into the home straight.

The gamble and eventual second Slievehill eyeballed Tom Keating’s charge at the last, when making a costly mistake. But, given how much the winner found after the last, it’s hard to say whether the result would have been overturned, as U Asking Me crossed the line two lengths to the good.

“I gave him little fills where I needed too, but he just kept going and kept finding for me. I ride him out most days and it’s a great team we have,” Phillips said.

Speranza Wild stays well

IT was a family affair in the Kingsfield Haylage five-year-old mares’ maiden as Susan O’Gorman saddled Speranza Wild (6/1 - 10/1) to win in the colours of her father, Donal.

The homebred came from off the pace to defeat the long-time leader Indiana West by two and a half lengths in the hands of Jamie Scallan.

“She was showing us plenty and home and she stays all day. We were very hopeful, and Jamie has given her a super ride there,” said the winning handler whose last success had come with Speranza Wilde’s dam Duplicate Daughter, a Stradbally maiden winner in 2015.

Horse To Follow

Ballyfinn (C. McKeever): This Flemensfirth gelding caught the eye when staying on from another parish to get up for second at the finish of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden. He should be a winner in waiting for owner Wilson Dennison.