MARS Harper took a while to get off the mark over fences but followed up a win at the Galway Festival by landing the featured Charlie Chute Memorial Handicap Chase on the concluding day of the Listowel Harvest Festival meeting last Saturday.

The Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old was prominent throughout and kept on strongly on the run-in to fend off the challenge of Fairyhill Run by nearly five lengths. The pair pulled 13 lengths clear of Birchdale in third.

“I thought he wouldn’t perform on the ground (officially yielding to soft) to be honest but he went away through it well and I’m delighted with him,” said winning rider Jack Kennedy of the 7/2 chance. He’s progressing away and hopefully he can keep going that way.

“The lads (Pioneer Racing) really enjoyed that and a few of them are local here.”

The start of this race was delayed by 11 minutes as Cian Quirke, who was later taken away by ambulance for further examination, was being attended to by medical staff on the track after the previous race and suffered a suspected leg fracture.

Up and down

It was certainly an up and down day for the young Tipperary rider who partnered Smooth Tom, twice a winner on the flat, to make a winning debut over hurdles in the opening John Lynch Memorial Maiden Hurdle.

Trained by Andy Slattery for Margaret and Padraigh O’Rourke, the 5/2 shot was a bit inconvenienced by favourite Ninth Loch jumping right at the final two flights before quickening past that rival on the run-in to score by a length and a half.

Quirke said after that win: “For one of Andy’s he might not have had as much schooling done as the others but he was natural enough at home.

“He’ll definitely sharpen up a lot from it. I had loads going down to the last and he’s won easy in the end.”

Atimetodream has share of luck

THE day turned sour for Cian Quirke when his mount, Hard Target, was brought down on the level at halfway in division two of the Kathleen Walsh Memorial Handicap Hurdle.

Atimetodream defied top-weight in an incident-packed race, stretching right away under Rachael Blackmore in the closing stages to justify 4/1 favouritism by eight and a half lengths.

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead was represented by Robbie Power who said: “We were a little bit worried about the tacky ground. I used to ride her mother Burn And Turn who didn’t like that ground but she handled it well.

“She has a nice pedigree and hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here. The (One For Luck Racing) syndicate also had Put The Kettle On.”

Division one of this two and a half-mile event went to 16/1 shot Millstream Lady, trained by Eric McNamara and ridden by his son Conor.

Took control

He was prominent throughout and took control from the penultimate flight to go on and score by seven and a half lengths. Eric McNamara said: “She’s a mare that doesn’t like to be crowded and we were very anxious to make sure she was on the outside and got loads of light today.

“She’s a mare that probably wants three miles and soft ground so we wanted to make plenty of use of her stamina. The owners are from Adare and Patrickswell.”

Derek O’Connor was seen to good effect in the other chase on the card as Harvey’s Quay made most of the running in the John & Terry Moriarty Memorial (Q.R.) Handicap Chase.

The J.P. McManus-owned 5/1 shot kept on under pressure on the run-in to hold off Galon De Vauzelle by half-a-length.

“He’s finally broke his maiden and I thought for just his second run in a handicap chase he’s jumped very well and of course Derek is just different class,” said trainer Edward O’Grady.

“It was his first time over three miles and he seemed to stay rather well. We’ll see how he comes out of the race as he generally takes a little time to recover.”

Murray strikes for first Gold in the kingdom

ADRIAN Murray fulfilled a long-held ambition to train a winner at Listowel when Gold Speed (17/2), owned in partnership by Anthony and Conor McLoughlin and Sean Coyne, landed the M J Carroll ARRO Handicap Hurdle.

The injury prone gelding bridged a three-year gap without a win jumping to the front at the final flight under Sean Flanagan before holding off Bugs Moran by three-quarters of a length.

Murray, who saddled his first Group 1 winner last month with Bucanero Fuerte in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, said: “As a young horse he showed a lot of potential and he’s after coming back off three career threatening injuries.

“Everything is a bonus with him now and luckily the last year he’s been very good. We don’t over race him and we keep him fresh. I’ve never had a winner in Listowel before and I’ve had plenty of seconds and thirds over the past 15 years.”

Fifth winner

Willie Mullins recorded his fifth winner of the week at Listowel when High Class Hero landed odds of 8/11 in the two and a half mile Allman Contracts Novice Hurdle.

The Sulamani gelding quickly asserted after two out for Paul Townend to beat Sequestered by a comfortable five and a half lengths.

“That was a nice performance. It looked like he’ll stay further and he handled the ground. He could be a nice prospect for Jared (Sullivan) as a winter horse and he’ll go the two and a half mile or three-mile route. Whatever he does over hurdles I’d expect him to be better over fences,” said Mullins.

The champion trainer also had a short-priced favourite in the Brendan Daly Memorial Slan Abhaile (Pro/Am) Flat Race but I Will Be Baie just lost out in a thrilling finish to chief market rival Intense Approach.

Trained by John McConnell for Caroline Ahearn, the 11/8 chance just got the better of a protracted duel by a short-head.

Winning rider Alex Harvey said: “He’s a horse that stays very well and we didn’t go too quick early on. He has a really likeable attitude and probably conditions didn’t really suit him 100% today so his class brought him through.”