Cheltenham winner Wicklow Brave teed up a possible return to England at Royal Ascot by winning on the Flat at Listowel.
The Willie Mullins-trained gelding was made 1/5 favourite for the Bryan McMahon Race over a mile and three-quarters and did not disappoint. Patrick Mullins’ partner was keen to get on with it early on before his jockey finally gave him his freedom passing the two-furlong pole and he had little trouble beating Cardinal Palace by five lengths.
The County Hurdle winner has now gone two races unbeaten since his transfer to Flat racing and the Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting – a race his trainer won last season with Pique Sous – could be next up.
On an afternoon which saw four of the seven races won by favourites, the biggest-priced winner on the cards was Hurricane Twister which caused a 33/1 upset to land the one-mile handicap in the hands of Gary Phillips.
Trained by Victor Clifford in east Cork, the eight-year-old showed a liking for the underfoot conditions by making a spectacular return to form holding off 11/10 favourite Laviniad by a half-length.
Pat Smullen, runner-up on Laviniad, enjoyed better fortune in the one-mile maiden when guiding Dermot Weld’s 6/5 favourite Sight Hound to a two-length success from Avizare.
Another market leader obliged in the fillies maiden as Knocknagree (1/1) in the colours of Denis and Joan Brosnan who also sponsored the race. Making virtually all in the hands of Kevin Manning, the Jim Bolger-trained daughter of Galileo quickened away at the furlong pole to win by just over three lengths from Takeachanceonme.
The other favourite to oblige was the Aidan O’Brien-trained Deauville in the opening juvenile maiden over seven furlongs.
Always prominent under Seamie Heffernan, the son of Galileo came under a drive early in the straight but the 6/4 shot responded well to his jockey’s urgings and was not hard pressed to beat Hoppala by two lengths.
Bay Hill (6/1) proved yet another front-running winner in the St John’s Literary Centre Handicap over a mile for Fran Berry and Christy Roche.