TRAINER Philip Rothwell sent out his first winner of the new season when Woodstream Lad won the featured Botanica International Handicap Hurdle at Clonmel on Friday evening. Carrying the colours of John Leckey, the 9/2 chance led two out before going on to win by a length and a-half.

Rothwell said: “He’s been a super little horse, and I just couldn’t run him on real winter ground. I thought today, with the rain getting into it, that it might catch him out and I don’t think he jumped as confidently as he could have done. I’d say they went plenty quick in front, and he ended up further back than you would like. It worked out well and Phidelma (Elvin) gets on well with him and her 7lb claim.

“I actually bought him for her to ride as a bit of fun in handicaps and then John Leckey came on board to purchase him. His Leopardstown run at Christmas was very good and then we hoped he might sneak into the two-mile handicap at Punchestown but the entries were incredible. Phidelma is a hard grafter and is part of a really good team I have with many senior staff. I’m very fortunate to have them and just try to man the fort.”

The Declan Queally- trained Natural Look won the opening Clon-

mel Racecourse Supporters Club Claiming Hurdle under Shane Fitzgerald. The 3/1 favourite led at the last, keeping on to hold On Lovers Walk by almost two lengths.

Declan Queally said: “She is rising nine and when you start to think about going to stud and covering them. We gave her a break after being pulled up at Leopardstown and I said to David (Needham, owner based in England) would we give somebody a chance to claim her and buy a younger horse.

“To be fair to her she has won four races and been placed 10 times. She has been a great mare for us and collected a couple of bonuses along the way as well. If she’s claimed she’s claimed and if she’s coming home we’re happy as well.” Ross O’Sullivan later claimed both the winner and runner-up.

Despite drifting from 9/4 to 13/2, the Gordon Elliott-owned and trained Clodders Dream easily landed the Aisling Kennedy Memorial Maiden Hurdle. Sam Ewing took up the running travelling strongly two out, going clear for an 11 length victory.

Form worked out well

Ewing said: “He’d a nice run at Christmas and had a bit of a break. He enjoyed that ground today. The form of that third at Limerick has worked out well. It’s his first run in a while and the way he’s done that today he’s open to a lot of improvement. I’d expect him to step forward a lot.”

Rachael Blackmore produced a master class in hold-up tactics when delivering 10/3 joint-favourite Tideways Hero from off the pace to win division one of the Download The New Tote App Handicap Hurdle. Settled in rear early on, the Niall O’Leary-owned mare cut through the field to lead two out, going on to win by three and a quarter lengths.

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “She jumped really well but is a bit keen still and ran a bit fresh but Rachael did a great job. She came through really nice. We gave her a good break over the winter. She’s a real good ground mare and looks like she might have strengthened up a bit so I’m delighted.”

Favourite backers were also on good terms with themselves after the Mark Fahey-trained Flicker Of Hope landed some nice bets in division two of that same contest. Owned by Swords Bloodstock Limited, the five-year-old was supported from 11/2 into 5/2 favourite. Leading at the last, the Aidan Kelly-ridden gelding went on to win by one and a quarter lengths.

Fahey said: “He’s done it well. He came off the bridle a bit green coming down the hill but he battled back well coming up the hill and his jumping was much better today. Aidan said he was completely different over that style of hurdle and is something to look forward to. The ground has opened up a bit after a few showers and is lovely and safe. He’s a nice horse for the summer but just wouldn’t want to run him on too quick a ground.”

Father-son duo strike gold

Tony and Danny Mullins were responsible for a third winning market leader in succession after their Ballycashin came good in the Talbot Hotel Clonmel Handicap Hurdle. Available at 14/1 overnight, the Cora Greene and Vera Deegan-owned mare was backed into 10/3 favourite at the off.

Leading two out, the seven-year-old went clear for an impressive six length success. Tony Mullins said: “We were thinking a Flemensfirth wanted soft ground and I’d say she’s a better mare on a bit of nice ground. Danny decided to ride her chilly out the back to let her get into a rhythm and she won well. We were surprised that she hasn’t done that up to now but I’d say we were riding her wrong and on the wrong ground. We might continue for the summer.”

Only A Dollar was well backed on track prior to making most in winning the Tote Guarantee Available On-Course & Mares Maiden Hurdle. Trained in Co Cork by Sean Aherne, the Pat O’Shea-owned and bred six-year-old stayed on strongly under Sean O’Keeffe to win by six lengths.

Winning trainer Aherne said: “She had a bit of experience today and I’d say two miles is as far as she needs to go. I made a few mistakes running her over two and a half. She settled there today with that kind of ride and got things her own way in front. She was that relaxed he had to wake her up a bit. She’s not that ground dependent and could tip away over the summer on those nippy little tracks.”

Fad Eadrainn won the concluding John Walsh (Mainstown) Memorial INH Flat Race for Patrick Foley and John Gleeson. Sent off 4/1 second favourite, the Ardyk Ltd-owned gelding just saw off market leader Cuckoo Valley by a neck.

Foley later reported: “He’s been very consistent and has strengthened up a bit, although it was a worry coming here that the ground changed as much as it did. I told John to ride him to get home and he gave him a serious ride. He’s a nice horse and we think a lot of him. He’ll be a lovely horse going over jumps.”