SANTA Claus came early for Spancilhill trainer Noel Glynn as he hit the jackpot in a big way last week when sending out two winners in less than 48 hours from his Durra House yard.
Glynn’s first success came as he mounted yet another successful UK raid when his 4/6 favourite Old MacDonald ran out a very easy winner of the concluding bumper at Ludlow last Thursday.
Backed as if defeat was out of the question, this son of King’s Theatre was simply in another class as he put his seven rivals to sword in the manner of a very smart horse.
Ridden by top Irish jockey Barry Geraghty, the market leader pulled hard during the early parts of this two-mile contest but, once Geraghty asked him to go about his business, Old McDonald sprinted clear for a facile six-length win over the Henry Daly-trained runner-up Inga Bird.
A delighted Glynn, whose frequent cross-channel visits continue to pay rich dividends, later revealed, “We went to Ludlow for a bit of better ground and we think the world of this horse. He had a couple of good runs in Ireland and Barry [Geraghty] said he travelled very well and was mad about him.”
“We’ve had a string of seconds over the past few weeks and it is nice to finally hit the target. This horse will go jumping and I’ll try and find a suitable novice hurdle for him early in the new year,” concluded the Ennis man.
Twenty-four hours later, Glynn was again on the mark when his game mare, Tilly Ann (5/1-9/2), made a winning return to action following a 10-month break when coming home in front in the two-mile beginners’ chase at Downpatrick on Friday afternoon.
Despite her long lay-off, this daughter of Turtle Island was strongly fancied to make a successful debut over fences and that support wasn’t misplaced as she strode to a hard-earned victory.
Ridden by Paul Townend, the four-year-old, who carries the silks of Tubber owner Martin Baker, was always up with the pace before hitting the front with four fences to jump. She might have appeared in a spot of bother when tackled by favourite Cru on the uphill climb to the post, but this mare, who won a three-year-old maiden hurdle at Clonmel last season, is gutsy and kept pulling out more to beat Cru by a length and a half.
The winner, who turned in a spectacular round of jumping, will now be aimed a winners’ race, according to Glynn’s assistant, former Grand National-winning jockey Jason Titley, who said, “This is a really tough little mare and she’s all heart. She’s a fantastic jumper and that a huge advantage for her. We’re not sure where we’ll go with her yet but we’ll have to step her up to winners’ company now.”
Meanwhile, the weather proved something of a spoilsport last weekend with both the Navan meeting on Saturday and Thurles card on Sunday being reduced to five races following the abandonment of the scheduled chases on each programme.
Nevertheless, racing fans witnessed some very smart efforts over the weekend, particularly so in the case of shock 25/1 winner Forty Foot Tom in the bumper at Navan.
A son of King’s Theatre, this fellow was totally unfancied yet he was most impressive when scorching clear to beat runner-up Our Aodh by 24 lengths.
The winner is trained in County Wicklow by Daniel Miley and perhaps if he was under the care of someone like Willie Mullins, he would be featuring very high in the betting for the Cheltenham Bumper following Saturday’s promising showing. He’s an exciting prospect and one worth watching out for in the months ahead.
Ruby Walsh was confidently expected to bag the featured Listed Horse and Jockey Hurdle at Thurles on Sunday aboard odds-on shot Mourad but the Willie Mullins-trained 4/11 shot had to settle for the runner-up berth when outpointed by in-form Galway-born jockey Alain ‘Squeaky’ Cawley aboard Gordon Elliott’s 4/1 chance Chicago Grey.
Mourad attempted to make all the running but could never shake off Chicago Grey, who mounted a strong challenge from the final flight to beat Walsh’s mount by head.
The opening Moycarkey Novice Hurdle was won by Edward O’Grady’s Rigour Back Bob who justified odds of 4/9 when sticking his neck out gamely for rider Andrew McNamara to deny Stonemaster (Davy Russell) by two lengths.
A bumper winner last term at Ballinrobe, Rigour Back Back is owned by the Gaticoma Syndicate that includes current Galway senior hurling manager John McIntyre and he should be able to make his mark over flights as the season unfolds.
Exciting four-day Christmas festival
THE annual Christmas Racing Festival at Limerick has been part and parcel of the festive season for a long, long time and this year’s four-day meeting, which kicks off on St Stephen’s Day, promises to be a very exciting affair.
This year’s festival will feature 28 races and total prize fund of close on €400,000. In excess of 30,000 people are expected to throng the enclosures during the fixture with a crowd of close on 12,000 expected for the opening St Stephen’s Day session.
The feature race on day-one is the €50,000 Grade 2 Greenmount Park Novice Chase which has attracted a class field.
Willie Mullins won this race 12 months ago with the David Casey-ridden Financial Regulator and the Closutton trainer again has a strong hand with three of his horses, Sports Line, Apt Approach and Cork National winner Our Monty among the 18 entries for this two-mile, three-furlong contest. Others to run the rule over here are Michael Hourigan’s Dancing Tornado and Oscar Looby from Noel Meade’s Navan stable.
Feature race on Sunday is the Grade C Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase where dual-Kerry National winner Ponmeoath tops the weights for Rathkeale trainer Eric McNamara. Recent Punchestown winner Tasman could be of interest here for Navan trainer Liam McAteer while Sizing America from the in-form Henry De Bromhead camp is one to note towards the lower end of the weights.
The Grade 3 Doran’s Pride Novice Hurdle takes centre stage on Monday at Greemount Park, while racing concluded on Tuesday with an interesting card where an exciting Hunter Chase will keep punters on their toes.
A big screen in the main enclosure will be showing the big Christmas racing highlights from Ireland and the UK, including the King George from Kempton on St Stephen’s Day where Kauto Star will bid for further glory under Ruby Walsh.
The Winter Wonderland Marquee offers additional public facilities and Ladbrokes will be operating betting shop facilities for punters.
A new feature this year will be a special reserved enclosure area, while staff from the nearby Woodlands House Hotel will be on hand at this year’s festival to offer manicures, facials, massage and make-up throughout the day.
A kids’ club will be open on the first three days of the meeting, offering face painting, art colouring and other novelties for the younger generation.
Racing each day will get underway at 12.35pm and the usual bus services from Limerick station will be available to ferry punters to and from the Patrickswell course.