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Rathlin shines under Russell

HAVING proved a frustrating sort for punters in the first half of the season, Rathlin finally opened his account for Mouse Morris in yesterday's novice chase at Fairyhouse.

The seven-year-old looked set for big things when trained by Philip Rothwell last season and finished a respectable sixth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Since joining Morris in the summer he has been a beaten favourite at Thurles twice but made every yard under Davy Russell as the well-backed 6/4 market leader.

"That was much better. He's got his wind done and hopefully he'll come on confidence-wise," said Morris. "I'd say he needs a trip. He'll maybe get three miles if he learns to relax a bit more."

Oliver McKiernan took the training honours as he saddled a 44/1 double with Profit Margin and Changing Times.

Profit Margin nearly got rid of Ger Fox at the second fence in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase but he recovered brilliantly to win by three and a half lengths. "He did it well and he got a great ride," said McKiernan. "That was the first time that Ger had sat on him."

Changing Times was given a patient ride by Shane Crimin in the two and half mile maiden hurdle, giving the 7lb claimer his second win.

Having been beaten on his hurdling debut, Noel Meade's Mickelson repaid his trainer's faith in the opening maiden hurdle as the 10/1 shot made every yard under Paul Carberry.

"I thought he was a certainty at Down Royal on St Stephen's Day but he ran like a hairy goat (finished 7th)," said Meade. "Why he ran like that I don't know -- maybe it was the ground. We tried something different with him today (made the running) and it worked. He probably wants better ground."

Michael McElhone, who gave up his licence for a few years, saddled his first winner since 2008 when Dooney Rock made all for Barry Cash in the Costa Coffee Dock Rated Hurdle.

Followers of Willie Mullins collected in the bumper with Dr Machini. An odds-on favourite in the morning, she was sent off a generous 6/4 and made all for a facile win under son Patrick.

Mullins, meanwhile, reported Hurricane Fly to be "100 per cent" ahead of his planned seasonal return in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The eight-year-old has sidestepped two intended runs already this season, with the champion trainer admitting he had not been pleased with how he had been showing up at home.

An impressive gallop at Leopardstown last week was considered a major step forward, however, and Mullins is keeping everything crossed that Hurricane Fly is back at the Foxrock venue on January 29.

"He just hadn't been pleasing me in his work and if his work is not good, I'm not happy and he's not running," Mullins explained. "He's a horse who is very sharp in his work, but he has obviously not been coming up the gallop as fast as I think he is able to.

"He did please me the other day and hopefully we can build on that. With a clear run, he'll be more or less at his best, I hope. He's working well and doing everything right."

Irish Independent