Friday 15 December 2017

Empire strikes back at Naas

Empire Of Dirt jumps the last on his way to victory
Empire Of Dirt jumps the last on his way to victory

Empire Of Dirt got off the mark over fences with a determined effort in the feature Woodlands Park 100 Club Nas Na Riogh Novice Handicap Chase at Naas.

A 9-2 co-favourite for this latest assignment, Colm Murphy's charge travelled towards the head of affairs jumping the fence in front of the stands and went into a clear lead as the field headed on to the final circuit.

Some bold leaps kept up the momentum and although market rival Champagne James arrived on the scene seemingly full of running in the home straight, he was untidy two out and Empire Of Dirt kept up the gallop to fend him off by a length under in-form claimer Luke Dempsey.

Empire Of Dirt's five previous chase starts had yielded two placed efforts but also a couple of falls, most recently when he tipped up two fences from the finish when looking sure to win at Thurles last month.

Murphy said: "We'll see what the lads (Gigginstown) want to do. He was very unlucky at Thurles, where he fell at the second-last, and he was probably travelling too well.

"His pedigree suggests he'll get every yard of three miles and on that ground it was a proper test. It will be interesting to see what Noel (O'Brien, handicapper) does. He's been threatening that there was a nice one in him."

Mallowney put up a thrilling performance to take the Paddy Power Your Local Betting Shop Chase in the hands of Davy Russell.

A hugely impressive scorer at Fairyhouse last month, Tim Doyle's stable star was the even-money favourite back in Grade Two company and fenced beautifully throughout.

Having taken up the running from Twinlight early on the second circuit, he cruised into the home straight with plenty in the tank and powered 17 lengths clear of Rathlin after Moscow Mannon suffered a fatal fall at the final fence when looking beaten in second.

Doyle said: "I was hoping he'd do that and it was very similar to the way he won the Dan Moore. Davy thinks he's getting more relaxed.

"We'll stick to our plan and he'll probably go to Fairyhouse for the Normans Grove and Punchestown (Champion Chase) after that. He's relaxing earlier in his races and Davy seems to have the key to him. He's four wins from four races around here, and that's his first Grade Two win."

Lean Araig benefited from a power-packed drive from Robbie Colgan to claim top honours in the Paddy Power Shops Better Value Novice Hurdle.

Oliver McKiernan's six-year-old was on a hat-trick following successive handicap wins over three miles at Punchestown and was a 9-2 chance coming back to the minimum trip and stepping up to Grade Two level.

Victory did not look likely for much of the journey as Lean Araig appeared slightly reluctant and the jockey had to earn his riding fee, shoving his mount along and administering reminders but, to his credit, Lean Araig responded to his rider's urgings.

Modem emerged as the main threat in the straight, but McKiernan's charge would not be denied and fought him off courageously to pass the post a length in front.

The trainer said: "I'm happy with that - it was a bit of a battle. I think I've learned from that race that he really needs a lead. But despite that he's won and he's tough.

"Everyone knew he's a good three-mile horse and he's bred that way, too. I always felt two miles was a bit short for him. All being well, he'll go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown. There is a good three-mile handicap for novices and he has options now in novice races."

There was a sting in the tail for Colgan, who was suspended for four days for using his whip with excessive frequency.

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