DOUBLES were the order of the day at the Shillelagh & District Foxhounds meeting held at Tinahely as Gordon Elliott, Denis Murphy and Rob James each recorded two winners on a competitive six-race card.
Elliott was the first to register a brace, headlined by success for Hardline (2/5 - 1/2 favourite) in the open.
The former Grade 1 winner was the star act among the five runners and benefitted from a confident ride by Barry O’Neill.
Content to track the pacesetting Everything Now, Hardline dropped to third on the run to two out before launching his challenge approaching the last and forging clear to score by three lengths from Lough Derg Spirit and his aforementioned stablemate Everything Now.
“Barry [O’Neill] was happy with him. He jumped and travelled away and said he would be better on better ground; the ground is tacky there,” reported Simon McGonagle, who was representing the absent handler.
The 11-year-old Arcadio gelding sports the colours of Alex Hutter, who works in the office at Elliott’s yard.
Elliott had earlier taken the five and six-year-old geldings’ maiden with the French bred Happy Victory (7/4 - 5/2 joint-favourite) in the hands of Rob James.
The Buck’s Boum gelding had some track runs previously, including a pair of placed efforts. Edelle Logan’s six-year-old put that experience to good use here, picking up the running from the always prominent Ryehill before the last to score with the minimum of fuss by four lengths.
A delighted McGonagle stated that the winner would stay pointing, adding: “He jumped and travelled, and Rob [James] gave him a great ride. The further he went, the better he was going.”
Top marks for McElligott
The older mares’ maiden saw just the three horses face the starter. In a race run at a pedestrian pace, it was the consistent Elusive Mae (4/6 - 4/5 favourite) who took the spoils.
The daughter of Elusive Pimpernel had been placed on three of her six previous starts and had blundered away a winning chance at the last at this venue back in October.
Under regular partner Moira McElligott she kept things simple. Making every yard, she controlled the race at every stage before an injection of pace over the last two fences saw her dismiss her nearest rival Cooleenymore by a snug five lengths.
This was a fine and well-judged ride by McElligott, who was registering her first win of the season aboard the Willie Murphy-trained mare.
Winning owners The Three Counties Partnership are from Timahoe in Laois as Terence Delaney explained: “We bred the mare, and she will probably get a break now. The idea is to go to the track in the summer.”
THE opening race of the day provided Wexford handler Denis Murphy with the first of his double. Seven went to post for the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden and it was Coco Mademoiselle (6/4 - 9/4 favourite) who took the honours.
The attractive Doyen filly was well touted on her debut at Lingstown when finishing sixth and she made no mistake at the second time of asking with a thoroughly professional performance.
A very steady gallop meant five of the runners still held chances at the second last before Jack Hendrick asked his mount to quicken up and put the race to bed with a good jump at the last.
Chased home by newcomers El Elefante and Mardy Mono, she was three and a half lengths to the good at the line.
“We did fancy her today. She blew up the last day at Killinick so that was a good run,” Murphy said of the mare who also carried his own colours.
I know they went slow but she was very professional. She is a very nice filly who will improve loads. Hopefully she will be sold now.”
Murphy’s brace came in the winner-of-one for novice riders with Garcon Dargent (5/4 favourite).
Victorious over course and distance in November, the six-year-old Doyen gelding showed his liking for the Wicklow venue under Joey Dunne by outbattling Old Style Humor in the closest finish of the day.
Old Style Humor hadn’t found the banks at Lingstown to be to his liking on his latest start but bounced right back to form as he led to the last, but a determined Garcon Dargent rallied to take the spoils by a length.
Murphy was full of praise for Dunne after watching the second horse carry his colours to success on the card as he stated: “Joey [Dunne] rides out for me every Wednesday and is a very good chap and a very good rider. It’s great to be able to give him a winner.”
Now that the bay has found the winning groove, connections plan to strike again quickly declaring that he would reappear this month at Ballycrystal.
THE older geldings’ maiden saw 10 of the original 11 entries stand their ground and it was one of the least experienced runners who took the honours as Rockandrose (7/2 co-favourite) sauntered to a 16-length win - a victory that brought up a double for Rob James.
Run at good gallop with the field well strung out for most of the contest, the Oscar gelding swept through under a patient ride to go clear from the penultimate fence.
Despite getting badly hampered on the approach to the last, the David Christie-trained gelding, owned by Kieran Mahon and Noel Keenan, had more than enough in reserve to defeat Royal Rocco.
“Rob [James] had him as a young horse, he got a leg, and I bought him. I brought him back and he got cast in his box, giving himself a fracture of the pelvis. Patience has been the big key and we’ll keep stepping him up the grades, but I can see him winning on the track,” Christie explained.
It was an emotional win for connections as Frank O’Toole, whose daughter had passed away around this time seven years ago, got involved with the horse without knowing her name. ‘Rockandrose’ just so happened to be his late daughter’s favourite perfume.
Horse to Follow
El Elefante (R. Tector): The daughter of Ol’ Man River lost nothing in defeat against an experienced and talented rival. She looks like a winner in waiting on this performance.