Cooper delight as Legend lives up to great expectations
LYREEN Legend looks an exciting prospect and delivered on the high expectations that trainer Dessie Hughes has for him when overturning odds-on favourite Jenari in yesterday's Christmas Novice Hurdle at Navan.
Bryan Cooper -- who recorded a winner on his comeback from injury on Sunday -- was again seen to good effect as his mount took over from Kerrkil before the straight and it then developed into a duel between him and Jenari.
But from before the last, it was apparent Lyreen Legend (11/4) wasn't for catching as he galloped on to score by four and a half lengths, with Tackmaster 19 lengths behind in third. "He loves that ground. He's still a bit babyish and will be better over two and a half miles," said Cooper. "I got a nice feel off him and he won cosy in the end."
A ding-dong battle for the 2012 Navan Membership Maiden Hurdle saw the well-backed Abou Ben (8/1) edge out odds-on market leader Its The Ice I Like. Having only his second start for Andrew Oliver, the gambled-on Abou Ben swept to the front two out, only for the favourite to rally and get his head in front soon after the last.
But the winner showed a tremendous attitude under Paul Carberry and wasn't to be denied a nose success.
In stark contrast to that exciting finish, the bumper saw the easiest winner of the afternoon as The Paparrazi Kid looked a Cheltenham prospect when sluicing up for the father and son team of Willie and Patrick Mullins.
Backed from 4/9 into a prohibitive 30/100, the Milan gelding stretched on from the furlong pole to beat Clash Of Kings by 15 lengths.
Mullins trains the full-brother to Saturday's winner Rourke's Cross for Byerley Thoroughbred Racing and the Carlow handler said: "That was very pleasing -- he may even be better than I thought he was. He probably won't go hurdling this season. We'll probably keep him at this game."
A fine leap at the last sealed victory for Bay Of Kotor in the Christmas Greetings Handicap Hurdle. The Andrew Thornton-ridden 9/4 favourite was defying a 6lb penalty for his Fairyhouse win on Saturday and ultimately had five and a half lengths in hand over Lilywhitedancer.
The Slane Maiden Hurdle went to Benefficient, trained by the in-form Tony Martin and ridden by Ruby Walsh. The 7/2 shot unseated Walsh on his jumping bow last month but jumped fluently this time and made all to beat disappointing odds-on favourite Knockgraffon King by eight lengths.
"I'd say he's a good horse," said Martin. "He was a bit unlucky here the last day when he stumbled and got rid of Ruby at the second last."
Philip Fenton and Brian O'Connell took the staying handicap hurdle with the blinkered Strange Encounter, which proved too good for Brookville, while trainer Liam Cusack's Last Time D'Albain (5/1) claimed the concluding 'Prancer and Dancer' Handicap Chase under Paddy Flood.