WILLIE Mullins introduced two potentially smart prospects when bookending this seven-race card with a short-priced double via Highwind and Maughreen.

Highwind strengthened the champion trainer’s hand in the juvenile hurdle division when landing the Bet Victor Proud To Support Irish Racing Maiden Hurdle. The French import, sporting the Galopin Des Champs colours of Audrey Turley, was far from fluent at a number of hurdles and, having quickened up well to assert before the final flight, did his best to throw away victory when pecking badly on landing after the last. However, the 6/4 favourite soon picked up again and won going away by nearly three lengths from Pigeon House.

Winning rider Sean O’Keeffe summed it well saying, “It wasn’t without a scare, but he has a nice engine and a bit of class. He knuckled at the back of the second last. He went and won his race before doing that at the last, but he picked up well again.

“He’s a laidback horse and stays well. He’s a horse with a nice future and there will be plenty of improvement in him.” Paddy Power trimmed his odds for the Triumph Hurdle into 16/1 (from 25/1).


Maughreen was hugely impressive in justifying odds of 1/2 with the minimum of fuss in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Flat Race.

Ridden by the trainer’s so.n Patrick. in the colours of the Closutton Racing Club, the daughter of Walk In The Park out of an unraced half-sister to Faugheen caught the eye when travelling smoothly throughout and cruised clear from over a furlong out to beat Harrys Annie by a facile 11 lengths. Michael Kenneally, rider of third placed The Lord Maid, was given a five-day ban for his use of the whip.

“She was very professional, settled great and quickened up lovely. She handled the ground well,” said a beaming Patrick Mullins. “Her work was good but that is probably even better than what she was doing at home.

“We’ll go for blacktype bumpers and everything is on the table. The DRF might come a bit soon and there is Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Aintree.” Paddy Power halved her in price into 10/1 for the Cheltenham Festival bumper.

Walsh can use the cúpla focal

MARK Walsh partnered a 9/1 double on the card aboard the J.P. McManus-owned pair Slanagaibhgoleir and Buachaillbocht.

The former did his best to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory with a bad mistake at the last in the two miles and seven furlongs Download The Bet Victor App Maiden Hurdle but the 3/1 chance rallied well on the run-in to get the better of Churchroad Prince by a neck.

Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “He’d been a bit disappointing, and I’d say the step up in trip suited him today. I thought he’d thrown it away at the last, but he picked up again. He seems more in his comfort zone over that trip.”

Buachaillbocht brought up the double half-an-hour later in the Join Punchestown Members Club Handicap Hurdle with the 6/4 favourite also digging deep in the closing stages to get the better of No Fussing by half-a-length.

“He was better today than he was at Tramore which might have been a bit tight for him. There was atrocious ground in Tramore too and he just didn’t travel but he travelled well today and stayed it out well. He’s a fine, big scopey horse and should jump a fence,” said local trainer Ted Walsh.

Tremendous finish

The other maiden on the card, the Thank You To Rita Lyons Mares Maiden Hurdle, produced a tremendous finish with the judge required to confirm all places, and it was the front-running Annalecka that prevailed by a nose from Ashdale Flyer with Kiltealy Park just a further nose away in third.

“Ricky (Doyle) was good on her. He said she took a bit of a blow and she should improve. It was a tight finish and I’m very glad we came out the right side of it,” said trainer Mark Fahey of the well-backed 2/1 shot who was completing a mixed hat-trick having won a point-to-point and a bumper last spring.

“Pat Moran (owner) is from Mayo and he gets a great kick out of it. He’s come up here with all the family and they’ve had a great day out. His brother Brian bred her and he has a few half-sisters at home so it’s great,” added Fahey.

Morricone hits the target

MORRICONE showed plenty of promise on his previous two starts at this venue and was another well-supported winning favourite in the John Thomas McNamara Series (QR) Handicap Hurdle.

The 5/2 chance travelled well for Joey Dunne and led approaching the last before keeping on well to beat top-weight Joyeux Vivo by a comfortable four and a quarter-lengths.

“They went good and hard which suited us and he’s qualified for the final of the Full Circle Series (here at the Festival). There is another race back here at the end of the month and we can give him a break after that,” said trainer Ray Hackett before adding: “A huge thanks to Mags and Danny (Mullins) who were very straight with us when we bought the horse. We didn’t have to figure anything out as they told us everything.

“He has small little issues that need a bit of time between his races, he just gets a little stiff, so you wouldn’t rush him back out. The (Ballyvara) syndicate are all local Toomevara people, and I’m delighted to get them a winner.”

Tiernan Power Roche, rider of sixth placed Future Proof, was given a four-day whip ban.

Made all

Silver King, a faller at the first here last time over fences, reverted to hurdles with great effect when making virtually all in the Book Your Festival Hospitality Novice Handicap Hurdle. The 7/1 shot settled the issue with a fine leap at the last and drew clear under Phillip Enright to beat Mr Social by three lengths.“We’re mad happy with that as a few of the horses weren’t going that well and we lost a few horses. They seem to be coming back to themselves now which is great, and he’ll stay over hurdles for the moment,” said trainer Oliver McKiernan.