Hourigan's Job on track for Cheltenham
WILLIE MULLINS' insatiable juggernaut again pulverised all before it over the weekend, but Michael Hourigan left Cork dreaming of Cheltenham in March after The Job Is Right ground out a brave triumph in the Grade Three novice hurdle under Adrian Heskin.
Mullins and Paul Townend combined for a short-priced double to help bring the champion trainer's tally for the two days to nine, with Twinlight (9/10) readily claiming the featured Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase.
However, it was Hourigan, with that unmistakably mischievous glint in his eye, who was left purring after The Job Is Right boxed on all the way up the long Mallow straight to eventually see off Band Of Blood going away. The wily Limerick handler, who was celebrating his 66th birthday, had mooted a tilt at the National Hunt Chase for the five-year-old after its Clonmel maiden hurdle win last month and he was still plotting an unconventional route to the amateur riders' contest yesterday.
"That's the first time he has got his trip," he said of the 6/1 shot after the €30,000 three-miler.
"He is a fine horse and I think he is made for the four-miler. He has plenty jumping done at home, so if he doesn't have a run over fences before March it wouldn't matter. I gave a horse its first run over fences in the race before and it did him no harm."
The horse Hourigan was referring to was Deejaydee, which was also owned by The Job Is Right's owner Mary Devine. He finished fourth on that chasing debut in 1998 and returned to win the race 12 months later under Tony Martin on his only other start over fences, so it will be fascinating to see if The Job Is Right can get the job done first time round in 2014.
Townend couldn't reveal anything quite so bold after Twinlight's bloodless victory, a rout that was further simplified when Foildubh crashed three out.
Last year's winner Days Hotel also made mistakes on ground that might not have been quite testing enough for him. He eventually finished a well-beaten third behind Lead Kindly Light, as Mullins reclaimed a €29,250 winner's purse that he had secured for the previous five years.
"He is a classy horse," Townend stated of Twinlight. "The two-mile trip suits him because he is a free-going sort, but he wasn't stopping, either. All sorts of avenues are open to him now."
The locally-born 2011 champion had a similarly straightforward task in the opening maiden hurdle, as Rathvinden (4/5) added to his runaway bumper win here last month to stretch his unbeaten record to three courtesy of an 11-length stroll.
Dressedtothenines ensured that each of the three graded races went the way of the market leader in the mares' novice chase by overhauling the wayward Kates Benefit on the run-in to land odds of 2/1.
Niall Madden's JP McManus-owned mount was second to recent Grade One winner Don Cossack on its previous Galway start, though it's a moot point whether she would have lived up to that form had Kates Benefit not stuttered into the last fence before veering left.
That handed Dressedtothenines the initiative, which she rallied gamely to seize en route to holding on by a length. "She got there in the end," a relieved Eddie Harty quipped.
"Two miles and a furlong like that is sharp enough for her, so it's a nice prize to win."
Paul Nolan's well-backed Dick Dundee (4/1) made the most of a mark that was 38lbs lower than his chase rating to take the two-mile handicap hurdle in game style for Mikey Fogarty, while the longer heat went to Ray Hackett's Andrew McNamara-ridden Tidy Zag at 16/1.
The curtain came down on the programme with a hugely popular local triumph when Jimmy Mangan's Montys Meadow (6/1) stormed clear for his excellent daughter Jane in the bumper.