Clondaw Warrior brings up Ruby century
Ruby Walsh delivered Clondaw Warrior with a perfectly-timed challenge to claim top honours in the Farmhouse Foods Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse and record his 100th winner of the season in Ireland.
A winner at Royal Ascot and at the Galway Festival on the Flat last summer, the nine-year-old was making his first appearance since running on Champions Day at Ascot last autumn.
Walsh (right) rode a patient race aboard Willie Mullins' charge before producing him to challenge for the lead at the final flight. He jumped it well and landed running to score by three lengths at odds of 9/2.
Clondaw Warrior carries the colours of the Act D Wagg Syndicate, a group of owners that includes Walsh's wife Gillian.
Mullins said: "He just missed the cut in the Galway Hurdle last year. Hopefully he'll get into that this year and we have an entry for the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
"He ran a bit better than I expected. They went such a gallop, it played into his hands."
Barry Geraghty rode his fifth winner of the Festival as Eddie Harty's Coney Island won the Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final with plenty in hand.
A winner at Leopardstown over Christmas before seemingly having his limitations exposed in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, the five-year-old was a 9/1 shot despite dropping markedly in grade.
Geraghty produced his mount to lead after jumping the second flight from the finish and he found an extra gear to beat Stowaway Shark by two and three-quarter lengths.
Harty said: "He looked a class horse when he won his maiden and the Grade One possibly came a bit quick for him. Maybe it was a step too far at that time of his career.
"He's still a very raw horse and the better ground helped. We stepped him up today for a good prize and he's got it well. He travelled and jumped well.
"We'll see if there is anything for him at Punchestown. If not, it's a nice way to go out for the season.
"He looks a chaser in the making and it's always nice to have a horse that can get three miles rather than one that needs three miles."
Kerry Lee claimed her second victory of the Festival as Top Gamble ran out a comprehensive winner of the Normans Grove Chase.
Like Kylemore Lough, which won the Gold Cup, Top Gamble made the journey from Britain with excellent claims for his Grade Two assignment, having beaten last year's Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Dodging Bullets in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month.
The 5/4 favourite, which was partnered by British champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson, quickened up well in the straight, safely negotiating the remaining obstacle to seal a seven-length success.
Sizing Granite fared better than when pulling up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham a fortnight ago to fill the runner-up spot, but there is room for improvement in the jumping department. Days Hotel was third, while multiple Grade One-winner Flemenstar weakened quickly from the home turn and passed the post fourth, having cut out much of the running.
Johnson said: "The last time I was here was when I rode for my father-in-law Noel Chance in the Irish Grand National five or six years ago. It's great to come over. Kerry's horses are running very well and this horse, on his day, is very good.
"We were slightly worried the ground might have dried out too much, but it was a strong gallop and it suited him well. He's not the fastest, even though he's a two-miler. He prefers very soft ground.
Lee said: "I'd say it's very likely that he will come back for Punchestown. He's won three Grade Two races now so he deserves to step up (to a Grade One). I wouldn't risk him on anything better than good to soft."
Mr Diablo got off the mark over fences in the Beginners Chase after being sent off the 2/5 favourite thanks to some commendable efforts behind smart novices this term.