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Nolan back in big time

Cheltenham Festival next on agenda

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Latest Exhibition (left), with Bryan Cooper on board, jump the last ahead of Longhouse Poet, ridden by Jamie Codd, on their way to winning The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors€50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown

Latest Exhibition (left), with Bryan Cooper on board, jump the last ahead of Longhouse Poet, ridden by Jamie Codd, on their way to winning The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors€50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown

SPORTSFILE

Latest Exhibition (left), with Bryan Cooper on board, jump the last ahead of Longhouse Poet, ridden by Jamie Codd, on their way to winning The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors€50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown

The opening day of the lucrative Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday was a big one for Wexford connections, with two massive winners and a second in big races, led by Paul Nolan who announced his return to the big time with his first Grade 1 success for six years with Latest Exhibition, ridden by Bryan Cooper.

Cooper was to the forefront most of the way, tracking the leaders in the €150k Lacey & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle.

He moved to dispute the lead approaching the last with the Jamie Codd-ridden Longhouse Poet (6/1) and stayed on well to win by two lengths.

Codd lost out on second by a head to Rachael Blackmore on Cobbler's Way (9/1).

This was an all-Wexford success as the six-year-old son of Oscar and Supreme Leader was bred by the legendary Jim Mernagh at his Coolamurray Stud, Davidstown, and he is also involved with the ownership syndicate, the Toberona Partnership, which sports the purple and gold colours.

Latest Exhibition announced his class when putting in a couple of really promising runs at Navan, beating the highly regarded Andy Dufresne in a Grade 2 just before Christmas.

A group of long-term supporters joined Mernagh to form the new partnership to ensure the horse remained in the Nolan yard, and they have been rewarded with this €88,500 purse.

The Cheltenham Festival is next on the agenda and if the horse wins any race there is a special €50,000 bonus to be shared among the Nolan stable staff.

Nolan was thrilled with this success. 'I'm delighted for the lads at home, my brother James and for the owners, it was brilliant that they were able to hold on to him. There was a very big offer made for the horse and these guys have stopped him leaving our yard and I can't thank them enough,' Nolan said.

The other Wexford winner was young Taghmon five-pound claimer, Seán O'Keeffe, who gave a terrific ride on Gordon Elliott's Éclair De Beaufeu (8/1) to take the €100,000 Matheson Handicap Chase by two and a half lengths from Davy Russell on Paloma Blue.

Jonathan Moore almost pulled off a massive shock in the €200,000 PC Irish Champion Hurdle.

He finished with a real rattle on Darver Star (20/1) and came within half a length of catching hot favourite, Honeysuckle (8/11) for Rachael Blackmore and De Bromhead, beating home a lot of stars. Moore collected a cool €40k for connections.

Barry O'Neill got second in the €100k Goffs Future Stars bumper behind Pat Mullins on Appreciate It (11/10), who should go into the notebook for the Cheltenham bumper. O'Neill got a rare chance to ride in the Michael Tabor colours, made famous by Ballydoyle in the major flat races around the world, aboard Joseph O'Brien's Risk Factor (6/1).

Sunday was much less high profile for the Wexford connections, with Jonathan Moore doing best when picking up another €30k when taking second on Gavin Cromwell's Wolfe Prince (10/1) in the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle.

Paul Nolan's luck ran out as his Fitzhenry was still in contention in the €150k Grade A Chase until a faller at the third last badly hampered him.

There was a strong Wexford link with Faugheen who brought the house down when winning the Grade 1 €150k Flogas Novice Chase. Through most of his career the twelve-year-old has been cared for at Willie Mullins' yard by former Wexford jockey, John Codd, who rides him out every day.

Moore and Cromwell had two other wins earlier in the week - at Down Royal on Jurby (12/1) in the featured three-mile handicap chase, and at Limerick on Thursday with Bajan Excell (7/4). Bryan Cooper and Paul Nolan combined to romp away with a mares 'maiden hurdle with La Feline (5/2f).

There was a special moment at Dundalk on Friday night when Annie B scored for Anna Mary (Nan) Kehoe from Wexford town, and for Joseph O'Brien and Declan McDonagh. Nan is wife of well-known Wexford bus operator and racing man, John Kehoe.

The horse ran in Nan's own colours and was following up on a previous second and third at Dundalk. She called the horse after her mother, Annie Brown, Pembrokestown, and she said it was a real thrill to lead in her winner.

In Britain, Tom O'Brien had a couple of winners, Deise Aba (7/1) and Piloeon (1/3f), both for Philip Hobbs, while Daryl Jacob won on Fred (5/4) at Musselburgh on Sunday.

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