Ainama gives Maddens National delight
LAST night's Connacht Grand National at Roscommon proved a real family affair as Ainama landed the spoils in the famous colours of JP McManus.
Trainer Niall 'Boots' Madden and his son, jockey Niall 'Slippers', got off the mark for the current jumps campaign as their eight-year-old battled well to see off last year's winner Campbonnais.
Having raced in mid-division for much of the contest, the 10/1 shot made progress to track the leaders from the fourth last before taking up the running from Our Victoria approaching the final fence.
Campbonnais, which was due to carry 10st 9lb but his rider Davy Russell carried a pound overweight, threw down a determined challenge from the last but Madden refused to yield and got Ainama home by a neck.
"That was great, I'm delighted," said the winning trainer afterwards. "He will get an entry in the Galway Plate now."
Fresh from Sunday's success in the French Champion Hurdle with Thousand Stars, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh were on the mark in the Roscommon Beginners' Chase as Laganbank easily justified favouritism.
While better known for her successes in the National Hunt sphere, Jessica Harrington struck with Violet Lashes in the auction maiden over 10 furlongs. Despite getting loose at the start and then being troublesome in the stalls, the 5/4 favourite was prominent early on before taking up the lead two furlongs out to win by four lengths.
The opening maiden went to another trainer more accustomed to jumps success, as the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor struck at 13/2. The son of Jeremy made his debut at The Curragh last month where he finished ninth of 18 behind Blue Corner, but he showed considerable improvement on soft ground as Gary Carroll got him up close to home to deny Consonance.
"It was a weak maiden and he had run well in a good Curragh maiden first time out," said Hughes. "He will probably win a handicap and the handicapper shouldn't be too hard on him."
Jimmy Coogan's 16/1 outsider Theyturnedmedown put in a determined display to make all in the seven-furlong handicap under Leigh Roche.
The western venue also stages tonight's action, and the O'Brien combination of Aidan and Joseph can add to their haul of prize money.
In the opening fillies' maiden over seven furlongs, the Ballydoyle team's Reaching can make amends for an unlucky second at Naas where she was just touched off by I'm Sheikra.
The O'Brien clan also have decent prospects of landing the featured 'Roscommon Herald' Handicap with top-weight Harrison's Cave. This four-year-old was a respectable fifth to Overturn in the Chester Cup, but is a somewhat enigmatic performer and ran poorly at The Curragh recently.
Chief danger looks to be Mick Halford's Paddy The Celeb which won here three weeks ago, while the Mullins-trained Rattan and former smart bumper performer Tornedo Shay could also figure.
The pick of the jumping action is the Gerry Igoe Land Drainage Handicap Hurdle, in which Battling Boru and Churchfield Champ lock horns again, with the former 3lb worse off for inflicting a two-length defeat at Sligo.
However, a tentative vote is given to Clonsilla Fath, a scorer over hurdles at Fairyhouse last September which made an encouraging return to action on the Flat last week.
The fact that talented claimer Ben Dalton takes five pounds off his back strengthens confidence.
Dermot Weld and former champion jockey Walsh team up with El Toreros in the Sean Naughton Auctioneer Maiden Hurdle, and he should be good enough.
Paul Gilligan's in-form Roving Lad can complete his hat-trick in the Abbey Hotel Roscommon Handicap Hurdle, while the vote in the bumper goes to Peking To Paris representing Willie and Patrick Mullins.
Meanwhile, this year's Dubai Duty Free runner-up Mutahadee died after a routine gallop at Tommy Stack's yard yesterday.