'Dear' jumps to task on chasing debut
Willie Mullins sent just one runner on the long road west from Closutton to Ballinrobe, but the journey home was made shorter by the manner in which his Listen Dear made a winning debut over fences in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Installed 5/6 favourite for the Connacht Tribune Beginners' Chase, the six-year-old - which won a bumper and three hurdle races - was quickly sent to the front in this two-mile-one-furlong contest and jumped solidly to breeze home by 20 lengths from Lucky Pat.
The opening three-year-old maiden hurdle produced an exciting finish before going the way of Joseph O'Brien's well-backed 6/4 favourite Lord Justice which edged out stablemate Zig Zag (5/1) by a short head.
Conditional rider JJ Slevin, a cousin of the winning trainer, did the steering on the market leader which didn't always jump fluently but battled well on the run-in to get the verdict.
Favourite backers were also on good terms with themselves after the second race as 11/8 market leader Tornado Watch obliged under Mikey Fogarty in the Tuam Herald Handicap Hurdle.
Backed in from 2/1, the chestnut travelled well just behind the leaders before progressing into third at the second last. Approaching the last, Fogarty sent his mount - which is trained by his brother Jonathan - to challenge Mic Milano and he asserted after the last to win by four-and-a-half lengths.
Rachael Blackmore was seen to good effect in the featured John Mulhern Handicap Hurdle, in which she made nearly all the running aboard the Fergus Hanley-trained The Black Russian (7/1) which galloped clear of his rivals on the run to the last to record a seven-length success from Runyon Rattler.
Paul Townend combined with Stephen Mahon to land the mares maiden hurdle with Freedom Statue (10/1) which cruised home by 12 lengths.
The daughter of Presenting, which is owned by Tom Quinn, was settled in mid-division early on before making gradual progress and moving into second place behind Wilms Warrior at the second-last.
Townend pushed his mount into the lead rounding the home turn and the pair powered clear to win eased-down from 13/8 favourite Inchiquin High which stayed on to grab second.