| 3.2°C Dublin

Pique Sous bounces back to best on drying ground for Townend

IF confirmation were needed that ground conditions were drying out markedly at Fairyhouse, the decisive success of Pique Sous under Paul Townend in the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle provided it midway through the afternoon.

The Easter Festival got under way 24 hours earlier with the word heavy in the official going description, but that was changed to yielding to soft before racing began yesterday.

Consensus from the jockeys was that it was riding even better than that, and Willie Mullins admitted Ruby Walsh would have "jumped" from the mud-loving Tennis Cap prior to the two-mile Grade Two had he been allowed.

"That's just the luck of the game," the champion trainer said after watching the front-running 11/8 favourite plug on for fourth under Walsh.

Pique Sous finished sixth behind stablemate Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham when the ground was soft.

He warmed up for that with a facile victory on the all-weather at Dundalk as Mullins tried to keep him to a decent surface, and the classy grey didn't pass up the chance when it came along here.

Having sat last early on, Townend edged him past the Davy Russell-ridden Cops And Robbers on touching down at the last flight, before drawing most of three lengths clear to set up a tilt at the Grade One Evening Herald Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

"He just loves nice underfoot conditions," Mullins admitted of the Supreme Racing Club-owned winner, which returned at odds of 11/4, having opened at 4/1.

AP McCoy took the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle in JP McManus' colours for a second year in a row when Eddie Harty's Dressedtothenines found plenty to see off the persistent challenge of market leader Zaidpour.

The improving six-year-old mare was completing a hat-trick in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two, having previously found only the mighty Annie Power too strong at Clonmel in February.

"That just shows how good Annie Power is, because this one is a decent mare in her own right," Harty said of his well-supported 9/4 shot.

Brian Who also justified being backed from 8/1 into a 13/2 SP in the Irish Field Handicap Hurdle to score for local Batterstown handler Eddie Cawley and the in-form conditional jockeys' championship leader Mark Enright.

Jane Mangan rode a welcome first winner since being unceremoniously unshipped from Oscar Delta halfway up the hill in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham when Akorakor (7/2) kept on gamely to plunder the Racing Post Bumper for Gordon Elliott, who bagged a sixth winner in two days when Dont Back Down obliged at Cork soon afterwards.

The excellent seven-pound claimer was just denied a double on Gigginstown's Azorian in a thrilling finish to the concluding bumper.

Katie Walsh foiled her by a fast-diminishing head on TJ Nagle's The Mighty Milan.

Another to land a sizeable punt (3/1 from a 6/1 morning show), Nagle's charge hadn't run since finishing second at the Curragh last May.

In the two-mile novices' handicap chase, Ian McCarthy earned all the plaudits for a superlative front-running steer on Stephen Nolan's 25/1 shot Carlowsantana, while Barry Geraghty successfully employed contrasting tactics to get Edward O'Grady's Solstice Knight (12/1) home by a couple of lengths in the longer equivalent.

Irish Independent