Rebel Fitz's Killarney cruise underlines Galway credentials
REBEL Fitz laid down a marker for the Galway Plate at Killarney where he ran away with the featured Christy McSweeney Memorial Novice Chase.
Barry Geraghty's mount was tracking second favourite Beachdale Lad at the fourth last when Jessica Harrington's charge suffered a fatal fall.
From there, Rebel Fitz (9/10 favourite) gradually asserted his authority to come in 15 lengths clear of Churchfield Champs. While winning trainer Michael Winters confirmed that a trip to Ballybrit is next on the agenda, he is still uncertain if last year's Galway Hurdle hero will run in the Plate or a novice chase.
Willie Mullins saddled a 1-2 in the 14-furlong contest for amateur riders, but not in the order expected. The champion trainer's Midnight Oil looked like justifying even-money favouritism when holding off Marchese Marconi in the final furlong, but the market leader's stablemate Digeanta then swooped late under Mikey Fogarty to prevail by a nose.
There was a sting in the tail for Fogarty as the jockey received a four-day ban from the stewards for excessive frequency with the whip, while Katie Walsh, who rode the runner-up, got a one-day ban for the same offence.
With Galway fast approaching, Dermot Weld's horses appear to be on good terms with themselves and the Curragh maestro took the opening one-mile maiden with Cocktail Hour (11/4), which held off Danseur De Feu by a length and a half. However, Pat Smullen's mount was aided by the late withdrawal of Aidan O'Brien's 6/4 favourite Il Palazzo, which refused to go into the stalls.
O'Brien was fancied to gain compensation in the next contest with 4/5 favourite Rain God, but once again, the Ballydoyle supremo was out of luck as his charge trailed home fifth behind Royal Blue Star, a two-length winner from Hot Bed.
A morning price gamble was landed in the 11-furlong handicap for three-year-olds as Tony Martin's Dark Crusader (6/1) comfortably landed the spoils under Fran Berry.
Well supported in the offices at odds of up to 10/1, the filly appreciated the step-up in distance and once she hit the front approaching the final furlong, the issue was never in doubt. Outsider Seeyouallincoppers was runner-up, almost four lengths in arrears.
Trainer of the runner-up Paul Flynn went one better in the handicap chase as Boxer Beat finally broke his duck.