Gainford, Slevin and Flanagan all on the winning trail
GOWRAN PARK survived the poor weather early on Saturday, with racing going ahead on soft to heavy going.
Jordan Gainford got off to a winning start in the opening maiden hurdle when Gordon Elliott’s Abbeydale (11/2) battled on gamely to repel the odds-on favourite, Raglan Road (8/13), for the De Bromhead-Blackmore pairing.
The two horses pulled well clear of the rest. The favourite loomed up at the second-last travelling like a winner, but Gainford’s mount responded to pressure and kept finding more for a gutsy success.
J.J. Slevin came close in the Boylesports handicap hurdle as he conjured a good finish out of Early Arrival (20/1) for James Barcoe but failed by a neck to reel in Ardera Ru (14/1) which provided a local win for Mooncoin trainer, Eoin Doyle.
Seán Flanagan also had to be content with second in the day’s feature, the €45,000 two-mile handicap chase, on David O’Brien’s Minx Tiara (13/2), two and a quarter lengths behind outsider, Grange Walk (20/1). Flanagan did not have the clearest run; he hit the front after the last but was caught close to home.
Colm Murphy’s Macs Charm (3/1) had to accept second six lengths behind hotshot Aint That A Shame (8/13) which completed a double for De Bromhead and Blackmore - their horses appear to be hitting form just in time for Cheltenham after a less than stellar start to the year. Gars De Sceaux (10/3) was a distant third for Elliott and Gainford.
There were some good pots on offer at Naas on Sunday, and J.J. Slevin got his share when taking the €22k handicap hurdle on Carnfunnock (7/2) for Stuart Crawford, in the colours of Munir and Souede.
He pipped Seán Doyle’s Lucky Max (7/1) by a nose on the line.
The €100k Leinster National was won by Barry Connell’s Espanito under Mikey O’Sullivan and his horses are in great form, with a couple going to Cheltenham with realistic chances.
Grade 1 novice hurdle winners, Marine Nationale and Good Land, are fancied in the opening races on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Paul Nolan, fresh from a double at Wexford last Sunday week, struck again at Limerick on Sunday with Fortunefavorsdbold (14/1 into 10s) under a strong Seán Flanagan ride, seeing out the three miles well in the soft going. This was Flanagan’s 20th winner so far in an injury-shortened season.
The racing week began at Leopardstown on Monday, and J.J. Slevin was on the mark for Joseph O’Brien on Solness (4/5f) in the beginners’ chase, holding off a pair of Gordon Elliott runners. He was four and three-quarter lengths ahead of Hamundarson (13/2) under Jordan Gainford.
Benny Walsh has been having a good time of it lately and he rode Philip Rothwell’s Galon De Vauzelle (5/2) into second in the John Thomas McNamara handicap chase, behind Battle of Mirbat under Adam Ryan.
Daryl Jacob must have had his heart in his mouth when he suffered a couple of falls at Ayr on Friday, one of them on a money-on favourite.
Coming so close to Cheltenham, where he will have a good book of fancied rides, this was far from ideal, but he seems to have escaped unscathed and had a ride at Naas on Sunday.
There were some victims of the weather over the weekend, with the Thurles meeting on Thursday re-scheduled for Monday, and Navan was called off on Saturday.
On the flat, Donagh O’Connor kept up his good run on the all-weather at Dundalk on Friday night aboard John McConnell’s bargain buy, six-year-old Kingman (10/3f), which changed hands for 1,000 Guineas in October, 2021. He held off Benavente (4/1) by a neck as the Ross man’s seasonal tally reached 13.
Pat Dobbs had a winner at Jebel Ali on Saturday for regular trainer Doug Watson on board National Bank (11/2), getting up by a neck from 14 rivals.
P.J. McDonald had a good-priced win at Southwell on Thursday on Too Much (12/1) for James Horton in a one-mile handicap.