Cooper on the double as 'Thief' steals prize
Bryan Cooper stole the riding honours at Down Royal where he recorded a short-priced double for his retained owners Gigginstown House Stud.
The Kerryman got proceedings under way with a cosy success aboard Cogryhill which continued Gordon Elliott's good run when taking the opening maiden hurdle.
The 2/7 favourite made a lot of the running, and only had to be shaken up going to the last to beat stablemate The Storyteller by three and a half lengths.
Just over an hour later, Cooper completed his brace when guiding Henry de Bromhead's Identity Thief to a gutsy triumph in the featured WKD Hurdle.
Cooper kept things simple on the 15/8 market leader, sending him straight to the lead and gradually winding up the gallop.
Jessica Harrington's Modem, turning out just five days after failing to fire when favourite for the November Handicap, was the first to throw down a challenge, but his effort petered out.
Willie Mullins-trained filly Whiteout tried to bridge the gap from the home turn, but Identity Thief was good value for his three-and-a half-length victory.
"I'll talk to the O'Learys (of owners Gigginstown House Stud), but I imagine he'll stay hurdling this year and will make a lovely chaser," said De Bromhead.
"I hope he'll improve. He did it the hard way and Bryan gave him a super ride - he's riding out of his skin. The race that comes to mind is the Hatton's Grace over two and a half miles."
De Bromhead later went on to record a double of his own when the well-backed The King Of Brega (100/30 joint favourite) and jockey Andrew Lynch recovered a blunder at the second last to get back up and edge out Churchfield Champ in the two-mile handicap chase.
Listen Dear galloped her rivals into submission in the EBF Lough Construction Ltd Mares Novice Hurdle.
A 37-length winner of a Downpatrick bumper and similarly impressive on her hurdling debut at Clonmel in early September, the Mullins-trained five-year-old bowled along at the head of affairs and only Dragon Fei was able to keep tabs on the market leader.
However, that rival began to beat a retreat leaving the back straight, while Ruby Walsh remained motionless as Listen Dear further extended the lead.
It was all over as a contest with one flight left to jump and the Mullins runner skipped over it to seal a 16-length victory from runner-up Colla Pier.
Elliott completed a double of his own - and a treble for owners Gigginstown - when Tombstone justified odds of 4/6 in the hands of Nina Carberry after pulling 11 lengths clear of Chitu in the closing bumper.
Across in Newmarket, Joseph Murphy teamed up with Pat Smullen to land the Listed Bosra Sham Stakes with Only Mine.
Quickly away, the 5/2 shot cut out much of the running with favourite Priceless before mastering that rival to move into a clear lead inside the final two furlongs.
Although Squash made up a rapid amount of ground inside the final furlong, she could not quite reach the Joseph Murphy-trained two-year-old, which won by a fast-diminishing head.
At Uttoxeter Philip Hobbs' top-class hurdler Garde La Victoire made a fine start to his career over fences with a solid display in the beginners' chase.
Rated 154 over the smaller obstacles after winning six times - including in last season's Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham - the six-year-old was the 11/10 favourite for his fencing bow in the hands of Richard Johnson.
The six-year-old was a little free on what his first appearance since the end of January and pulled himself towards the front end down the back straight. While he got in close to a few fences, his class was obvious as he loomed up alongside Bristol De Mai in the home straight.
The latter would not go down without a fight, but Garde La Victoire had him cooked on the run to the final fence and produced a measured leap to seal a seven-length success.
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