Lee on high after Vicalus success
Limerick native Mick Lee nurtured both the champion apprentice-elect Connor King and reigning champion conditional Mark Enright in their formative years and he has now seen his own colours carried to success after Vicalus ran out a ready winner at Ballinrobe.
Trained by Lee's step-daughter Susan Finn, Vicalus landed a small touch under Bryan Cooper in the handicap hurdle, having been backed from 16/1 into 12/1.
"She's not very big, but is honest and jumps brilliantly," said Lee. "She's already won a point-to-point and might go for a mares' beginners chase."
Vicalus was the first winner to sport Lee's colours since his son Billy rode Thru'thechair to victory for his daughter Gillian at Galway seven years ago.
Jody McGarvey gained the lead in this year's conditional jockeys' title race when Des McDonogh's World Citizen (14/1) just saw off Go Paddy Go's persistent challenge in the first division of the same race.
The win puts McGarvey on 12, one ahead of David Splaine and two up on Enright, who is currently sidelined with three fractured vertebrae.
"God be with the old days, this place was always good to me," Kells-based McDonogh recalled. "It was the only track in Ireland that let me gallop Monksfield (Champion Hurdle winner in 1978 and 1979), but nowadays they let you gallop anywhere.
"That's three races she's won and she has the option of going over fences as well. The owners the Newells are from Dunshaughlin and are mighty owners."
Joanna Morgan was another Meath handler who spoke glowingly of the Mayo venue after Ancient Sands (7/2) took the two-mile handicap hurdle in impressive style under Andrew McNamara.
"I hardly ever leave here empty-handed," Morgan explained. "I was meant to be at the sales today, but this is my favourite track in the whole world!"
Ruby Walsh drove Willie Mullins' Noble Inn (5/4 favourite) to a determined win in the juvenile hurdle, while Davy Russell was on the mark aboard John Nallen's Minella For Value (13/8 favourite) in the conditions chase.
Walsh was left to rue his luck when Passage Vendome fell at the last with the beginners' chase at his mercy, as his regular mount Nearest The Pin took full advantage to justify 5/4 favouritism for Tony Martin and Barry Geraghty.