'Speckled' success evokes happy memories for Roche
THE well-bred Speckled Wood posted a poignant success in the opening Holy Cross Mares Maiden Hurdle at Thurles.
The five-year-old is the first foal of Like-A-Butterfly, the fine Grade One winner over both hurdles and fences, which died from colic very recently.
Speckled Wood – which, like her mother, is also owned by JP McManus and trained by Christy Roche – had been placed in both her previous runs, also at the County Tipperary course, and went off the 8/11 favourite.
Alan Crowe picked off the Davy Russell-ridden Ma Belle Amie and she eventually stretched well clear.
"She jumped and travelled away and did it well," said McManus' racing manager Frank Berry. "Her two runs here previously were nice and she likes jumping. She'll go for a handicap or a winners' of one next. It's nice to have one in the family coming along after her mother passing away."
Ruby Walsh was on hand to bag a quick double for Willie Mullins, starting by helping Rolly Baby (5/2 favourite) justify an absence of over 800 days in the two-mile maiden hurdle.
The hitherto frustrating Are Ya Right Chief (4/1) finally got himself off the mark over timber under a strong Walsh ride when heading favourite Davy From Milan in the staying maiden hurdle.
Denis Hogan registered his first double as a trainer, with the brace being triggered by the victory of Luke's Benefit in the Clonmore Handicap Hurdle under an astute ride from Brian Cawley. "Brian won on him before and we decided to claim from him. He needs every chance as he's getting older," said Hogan, who actually rode sixth-placed Drishogue Boy for Noel Brett. "I've nothing mapped out for him."
Hogan himself was the rider of his second success, when partnering the well-backed Missie Ella (8/1 to 11/2) in the Littleton Handicap Hurdle.
The daughter of Barathea raced prominently on the rail in the three-miler as the lead swapped several times during the contest.
Leggy Lad tanked into the lead five out, but was tackled turning for home by Missie Ella and Hogan drove his charge into the lead before the final flight before holding off the Mouse Morris-trained War Correspondent by half a length.
"She drifted across for a bit of company and it helped her across the line," said Hogan. "She had a hard race there and will get a break – she's a chaser in the making."
The Gigginstown House Stud colours worn by the runner-up in this contest visited the winner's enclosure after the bumper as Philip Fenton's Band Of Blood prevailed in a driving finish.
Favourite Cyprian Prince started to weaken approaching the straight as The Pounds went to the front, but Band Of Blood appeared to benefit from taking a wide course under Richie Kiely. The Rathcannon point-to-point winner battled gamely to prevail by a head and is likely to challenge for a winners' bumper next.
Eoghan O'Grady was on the mark in the Killinan Handicap Hurdle with Unoccupied, which made the most of Vincent Row's final flight fall.
The 10/1 winner raced prominently throughout the contest – run over a gruelling two miles and six furlongs – and Philip Enright sent his mount to the front at the third last where Twin Plan appeared to be travelling better.
However, the latter didn't find much and it was left to Vincent Row to throw down the gauntlet, but that one took a tiring fall at the last, which allowed Unoccupied to gallop eight lengths clear of Twin Plan.