Mr Cracker soars in O'Leary double
IT proved a good day for Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud colours at Limerick yesterday despite an early setback for the high-flying owner.
Two of the three runners in the opening conditions hurdle carried O'Leary's famous maroon and white colours and they were expected to be seen in the winner's enclosure.
However, his odds-on favourite Big Game Hunter was the first horse to come under pressure and it was left to O'Leary's other runner, Sounds Of Jupiter, to fly the flag.
Adrian Heskin looked in control as he sent Sounds Of Jupiter for home early in the straight, but Eddie Power had the move covered on outsider Rory Anna and the John Joe Walsh-trained filly cruised home by eight lengths.
Power and Walsh were out of luck later in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle when Stony Grey Soil refused at the final flight as he held a three-length advantage. This drama was greeted with delight by favourite backers as the well-supported Flemensford came home in front.
O'Leary had cause to celebrate after his Mr Cracker landed the featured Greenmount Park Novice Chase having galloped his three rivals into submission. Heskin soon had Michael Hourigan's charge jumping well and was always going better than nearest pursuer The Hurl, which looked beaten when falling at the second last fence.
C'est Ca took the runner-up spot, but was a distance behind at the winning post and Hourigan, who saddled Dancing Tornado to take this Grade Two contest 12 months ago, has high hopes for the five-year-old. "He'll improve a lot on better ground and going left-handed. He might go for a novice chase at Cheltenham in January," said the Patrickswell handler.
O'Leary completed a double in the staying novice chase when Gordon Elliott's well-backed Roi Du Mee took the spoils under Keith Donoghue.
Willie Mullins was also on the mark when 11/8 favourite Maggie Connolly took the mares maiden hurdle in the hands of his nephew Emmet Mullins.