Donoghue seizes on Getabird error to earn Hardline victory
There was to be no great festive cheer for Ruby Walsh on his first St Stephen's Day visit to Limerick in 22 years.
While the 12-times champion jockey did leave the Patrickswell venue with one winner - courtesy of the Willie Mullins-trained Salsaretta (11/8fav) in the Signsplus Hurdle - he suffered odds-on disappointment in the feature event, the Matchbook Exchange Novice Chase, with 8/15 hotpot Getabird.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Hardline capitalised on a mistake by Walsh's mount at the final fence to take the Grade One spoils. Ironically, the market leader had jumped well in the main for Walsh until he reached for the second-last, as the Michael O'Leary-owned Hardline (9/2) loomed large.
Coming to the final fence it still looked as though Getabird would prevail, but the Mullins' inmate met it wrong, got in too close and landed awkwardly.
Sensing a golden opportunity, jockey Keith Donoghue quickly pushed Hardline (9/2) into the lead and while the favourite rallied for Walsh's urgings on the run-in, the partnership could not close the gap and was half a length down at the line.
Donoghue was winning his first Grade One and said: "It is a great feeling. I have missed a couple of Grade Ones through weight and getting taken off ones and with injury, so it's great to get that first one.
"I knew I was going well, but you never know with Ruby what he is holding on. I got a good jump at the second-last and I squeezed him down to the last and knew if I got a good jump here I had every chance.
"Ruby missed it a little, but he had plenty of time to come back at me and I was always holding him."
Walsh was also aboard a beaten Mullins favourite in the opening 3-Y-O Hurdle as Mixmoon (11/10) trailed home third behind the Joseph O'Brien-trained Band Of Outlaws (2/1) which triumphed in the hands of JJ Slevin, while the Denis Hickey-trained Buckie Cullen (7/1) took the Guinness Maiden Hurdle under Jonathan Moore.
There was a 40/1 upset in the closing bumper as the Tony Mullins-trained Shanches edged out Designer Destiny by a nose, earning rider Johnny Hurley his first racecourse success.