Monday 11 December 2017

Elusive Express gives stablemates slip

Thomas Kelly

HARRY ROGERS achieved a remarkable feat at Bellewstown when his trio of runners in the Inter Vintners Pub Challenge Race Nite Handicap were involved in a thrilling three-way finish.

The verdict went to the front-running Elusive Express (8/1), which was collared at the furlong pole by stablemate Lily's Star but fought back under Pat Smullen to win by a short head. Byron Beauty flashed home late to take third for the Louth handler, another short head away.

"It's very hard to win these races and I suppose it's just a pity that they weren't able to divide, with eight races already on the card," Rogers said.

"Lily's Star was a bit unlucky as she was in front a bit soon, but the winner was tough, and the third also ran very well."

Punters who were on the well-backed Dancingwithangels knew their fate early on as the John McConnell-trained filly parted company with Billy Lee as the stalls opened.

The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden lost some of its interest when likely favourite Conversational was withdrawn after bursting out of the stalls, but there was a lot to like about the victory of Luna Forest from a wide draw. The 6/1 shot led off the home bend and went clear to score by four and three-quarter lengths under Ronan Whelan.

Connor King landed a double on the David Marnane-trained He's Got Rhythm (11/2), which always looked to be going best in the Handicap, and on John Murphy's Sabaidee (12/1), which was driven seven lengths clear in the Hibernia Steel Products Handicap.

Getting in foal seems to have done Knockcroghery (11/8 favourite) a power of good and she followed up last week's Tipperary success for the John Nicholson yard by taking the Kingbet Bookmakers Handicap in the hands of Luke Dempsey, forging past Donatis Comet on the run to the line to score by a length and a quarter.

When the action switched to the jumps for the richest prize on the card, the Fast Shipping Bellewstown Handicap Hurdle, it was connections of Rawnaq who were celebrating as he completed a hat-trick after victories at Punchestown and on the level at Navan.

It was a family affair as the six-year-old (3/1 favourite) is owned by Kevin Smith, trained by his son Matthew and was ridden by another son Kevin jnr. He led three out and was always in command in beating Giant's Quest by four and a half lengths.

Galway is on the agenda and he could try to pick up a €25,000 bonus for winning the Galway Hurdle.

Irish Independent

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