Westerner points way to festive prize for O'Grady
North Cork trainer Eoghan O'Grady captured the big prize at Limerick where his Westerner Point finished with a flourish under Philip Enright to grind out a gutsy victory in an exciting finish to the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase.
The seven-year-old gelding, owned by the Thade Quill Syndicate from Ballyclough outside Mallow, looked in trouble as Pairofbrowneyes - winner of the race last year - made the best of his way home rounding the home turn.
However, approaching the final fence the petrol gauge started to run empty on the leader as Montys Meadow challenged on the stand side and Westerner Point (8/1), prominent throughout he contest, rallied strongly to make his move up the far side rail.
Under a determined drive from Enright, O'Grady's charge knuckled down gamely and took the lead inside the final 150 yards to fend off Montys Meadow by a half-length to record his sixth career victory.
Pairofbrowneyes, which went off the 5/1 joint favourite, was four-and-a-half lengths back in third while Damut was a further four-and-a-half lengths adrift in fourth spot.
The day's riding honours went to amateur Johnny Barry who completed a quickfire double in the last two races on the card. First up for Barry was the success of Sweet As A Nut in the Earl Of Harrington Memorial Maiden Hunters Chase.
Trained by Michael Barry, the 3/1 shot made steady progress down the back straight before his rider pushed into the lead just before the home straight. After that it was all plain sailing as Sweet As a Nut put 15 lengths between him and runner-up Captain Bizarro.
Half an hour later, Barry returned to the winner's enclosure as Duke Cass proved far too superior to his rivals in the rated novice hurdle over two miles.
Barry drove him clear of his rivals before the second last and Karl Thornton's charge kept up his remorseless gallop to beat runner-up Tinos Tank by five-and-a-half lengths.
Rachael Blackmore was on the mark as she guided the Patrick Kelly-trained Lizzies Champ to comfortable success in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
The four-year-old gelding attracted support in the market, having been punted into 10/1 from an early 16/1. As the field straightened up for home it looked like Tranquil Magic was going to belie its odds as the 20/1 shot surged to the front jumping the second last.
However, Blackmore - who had been prominent throughout - refused to panic and got a great response from her mount between the last two flights.
Lizzies Champ jumped the last much more fluently than Tranquil Magic and quickened up nicely to score by six-and-a-half lengths.
Earlier, Some Neck kick-started an across-the-card six-timer for Willie Mullins as he justified 5/4 favouritism in the hands of the trainer's son Patrick who then headed off to Leopardstown to ride the winner of the bumper.
Noel Meade's Coquine D'aunou ran a race full of promise when second at Clonmel a few weeks ago and went one better by landing the mares maiden hurdle.
Carrying the Michael O'Leary colours, the 9/4 second favourite went for home early in the straight, and kept on well under Shane Shortall to beat the odds-on Chambord Du Lys by a comfortable five lengths.