Keane goes five ahead in race for title
Colin Keane stretched his lead over Pat Smullen at the top of the jockeys' championship to five with victory on Les Arceaux in the Christmas Parties At Fairyhouse December 16th Handicap yesterday.
Keane sent the Johnny Murtagh-trained 7/2 joint-favourite clear in the home straight and went on to beat Nannys Well by four and a half lengths. Keane, now on 91 winners, said of the winner: "Stepping up in trip probably brought about a bit of improvement in him and he handles that ground well."
Smullen had a book of fancied mounts, but could only managed two seconds - the closest of which came on 6/4 market leader Alaykha which was just outstayed by Decision Time (2/1) in the 12-furlong fillies maiden.
At Exeter, meanwhile, dual Grade One-winning hurdler Yanworth made a successful start to his career over fences with a comfortable victory in the beginners' chase.
Alan King's striking chestnut won eight of his 10 starts over the smaller obstacles, including top-level triumphs last season at Kempton and Aintree.
The JP McManus-owned gelding was unsurprisingly sent off at prohibitive odds and while it was not entirely plain sailing, with the 2/7 favourite a bit big at a few of the early fences and not being totally fluent at the second-last, he reeled in the pacesetting Sternrubin on the run-in without being asked for maximum effort by Barry Geraghty.
"It's job done and I'm pleased. He was a little bit high over the first few fences, but they weren't going very quick and I thought he warmed to his task well," said King.
"He put down at the second last, but he'll learn from that and overall I'm quite happy with the way he managed to get to Sternrubin, who is race-fit and a pretty good horse as well, and beat him."
Asked about future targets, King added: "I hadn't really looked beyond today, to be honest. I just wanted to get this out of the way. I think there's a novice chase back here on November 15 over two-mile-three, so we might look at that."
There was a thrilling climax to the novices' hurdle, with McManus-owned point-to-point graduate Onefortheroadtom narrowly denying Aintree bumper winner Lalor.
Lalor, which won three of his four bumper starts last season, did little wrong, but found Onefortheroadtom (7/1) a short-head too strong in the hands of Noel Fehily, who went on to complete a double aboard Johnny Farrelly's 20/1 shot Gingili.