Murphy enjoys his Leopardstown trip
Killenagh's Colm Murphy has enjoyed no shortage of success at Leopardstown over the years, and the Gorey-based trainer was back among the big winners at the south Dublin venue on Sunday when Empire Of Dirt landed the Coral.ie Leopardstown Handicap Chase.
Ridden by Adamstown's Jonathan Moore, the 8/1 chance came home clear of another Gigginstown House Stud-runner, Killer Crow, with the veteran Seabass in third place.
The winner, who was giving his young rider the biggest success of his career, will now be aimed at the Cheltenham Festival. It is a welcome return to form for Murphy following Marlbrook's success at Fairyhouse last week.
A thrilled Moore said afterwards: 'He jumped from fence to fence and took me along the whole way. Once I got my gap I was away and he was so game. He jumped unbelievable.
'It's a great training performance and I'm very grateful to Michael and Eddie O'Leary for giving me the chance to ride him. That's the last of my seven lb. claim as well.'
'He's been very misfortunate,' winning trainer Murphy added. 'He was travelling well in the Troytown when he tipped up and he doesn't go right-handed so we made a mistake running him at Punchestown. The Paddy Power here last time was a non-event so this was nice.
'It's ironic he has fallen so many times because he's such a good jumper, but it was the same with Big Zeb. People would laugh at me when I say what a good jumper he was. He's brave so when it comes off it looks good, but not so much when it doesn't.'
Also at Leopardstown, Jack Kennedy got one over on Ruby Walsh as he got the Paul Nolan-trained Golan Lodge (5/1) home ahead of Childrens List in the three-mile handicap hurdle.
Nolan was also responsible for a big surprise in the opening race at Thurles on Thursday - the two-mile maiden hurdle - as he sent out Rooster Byron to win at 33-1.
Running in the familiar Joncol colours, Rooster Byron had only run once before for the Davidstown trainer - finishing 13th of 22 in a Punchestown Festival bumper last April - but he looked a much-improved animal at Thurles as he stayed on strongly under Robbie Power to deny fellow outsider Never Again by three-quarters of a length.
New Ross pilot Donagh O'Connor was celebrating at Dundalk on Friday night as Tribal Path, an 11/4 shot, won the seven furlongs apprentice for Naul-based Damian English.
Vancouver, unbeaten in four starts as a juvenile in his native Australia where his victories included the Group 1 Golden Slipper at Rosehill in March of last year, is to join Aidan O'Brien to be trained for Royal Ascot.
The son of Medaglia D'Oro, trained in Australia by the legendary Gai Waterhouse, is to enter quarantine before being transferred to Ballydoyle. Coolmore has bought a controlling interest in the colt following his Golden Slipper victory and in a statement early last week, Tom Magnier of Coolmore Australia, said: 'Gai is adamant that Vancouver is a Royal Ascot horse and that's where we'll be aiming him. I've spoken to Aidan and Joseph (O'Brien) and they can't wait for the horse to arrive.
'Gai and her team have done a wonderful job with him, as evidenced by his unforgettable two-year-old season, and let's hope he does them proud on his travels.'
Following the cancellation of race meetings due to the recent spell of wet weather, Horse Racing Ireland has announced a number of replacement fixtures.
Tramore will host a meeting on Tuesday, January 26, to replace the New Year's Day meeting that was lost, while Thurles will hold an all-hurdle card on Wednesday, January 27.
There will also be an additional meeting at Limerick on Wednesday, February 10, which will give the track a measure of compensation after losing two meetings at their Christmas festival.
The meeting at Cork, which was due to be held on Saturday, January 2, but was cancelled due to severe flooding, will not be re-scheduled.
Racing takes place at the following Irish racetracks over the coming week: Fairyhouse, Wednesday, January 20 (first race 12.45 p.m.); Gowran Park, Thursday, January 21 (first race 12.55 p.m.); Dundalk, Friday, January 22 (first race 6 p.m.); Navan, Saturday, January 23 (first race 12.50 p.m.); Leopardstown, Sunday, January 24 (first race 12.50 p.m.).