Brooke braves elements to win historic all-female chase
British amateur Lorna Brooke braved the elements to enter the record books at Fairyhouse where she became the first rider to win a chase exclusively for female riders by guiding 25/1 outsider Moonlone Lane to victory in the Today FM Ladies Handicap Chase.
Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry were the star names in a 12-strong field that included British conditional Lizzie Kelly, who was in with a chance of victory when pushing 7/2 joint-favourite Rightville Boy into a share of the lead before the home turn, but he began to falter in the straight.
The other joint-favourite, On The Shannon, was ridden patiently by Walsh and looked to be making inroads on the leader until blundering at the final fence. That mistake handed Brooke's mount the initiative and the Paul Stafford-trained gelding kept galloping to record a two and three-quarter length success.
"I only found out yesterday that I was riding in the race and then we had a power cut last night," explained Brooke. "I arrived at the airport with no ticket. My flight was delayed, so I thought that everything was going bad.
"The race went to plan and he got into such a rhythm jumping. He's not very big, and the wind hit us and we gave the rail a fair bump."
Maxine O'Sullivan was taken to hospital for X-rays on a suspected broken collarbone after unseating from Finea.
There was some consolation for Carberry later on when riding a winner in her own colours as the Noel Meade-trained Showem Silver (7/1) powered more than four lengths clear of favourite Merry Night to claim the bumper.
Earlier, last year's facile November Handicap winner, Open Eagle, opened his account over hurdles with a smart display in the opening maiden hurdle.
The six-year-old was a stunning 12-length winner of the traditional end-of-season flat highlight at Doncaster last year when trained by David O'Meara, but made an inauspicious start to his jumping career with Willie Mullins when third as an odds-on favourite at Punchestown in February.
Sent off the 5/4 favourite for his seasonal reappearance, Open Eagle was never far off the pace and, in the main, his jumping was assured in the hands of Ruby Walsh. He loomed up ominously beside Double Island on the run to the final flight and was coaxed home to score by two lengths.
"It was a good performance in very testing conditions and we'll look for a novice race for him now," Mullins said.
Mullins and Walsh swiftly doubled up as Up For Review (2/1) sauntered clear in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle.
A point-to-point winner and a runaway victor on his bumper debut at Leopardstown, the six-year-old failed to make an impact in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March and was no match for stable companion Yorkhill at Punchestown.
He looks a high-class recruit to the jumping game, comfortably pulling eight lengths clear of 13-8 favourite Space Cadet without being extended.
Space Cadet was partnered by Davy Russell, who was having first ride since he suffered a broken arm and broken foot in a fall at Cork on August 30.