Cats 4, Wexford 2!
Kilkenny rule the roost on 'enemy' soil
An interesting eight-race National Hunt card at Bettyville on Wednesday was bookended by Wexford-trained winners in the first and last, but in between it was a case of Kilkenny ruling the roost with four winners, and a hat-trick for Danny Mullins.
There was a reasonable attendance in pleasantly warm but very overcast conditions, and they were entertained by some exciting finishes in just the second meeting with the horses racing left-handed.
The testing uphill finish is popular with both trainers and riders but the major disadvantage is the remoteness of the finishing line from the viewing areas and other facilities. The presence of two big screens again alleviated this problem, but it will be interesting to see how it works out if the screens are absent at any future meetings.
The punters got off to a great start with well-supported favourites obliging in the first four races. The Paul Nolan-trained I'm All You Need was all the rage in the two miles, four furlongs Courtown Mares' Beginners' Chase, being backed into 5/2.
Mikey Fogarty moved the winner into contention up the back second time round and took it up after the third-last fence. Despite being a bit sketchy at the second last, I'm All You Need ran well to the line and was a comfortable six lengths winner for Philip Byrne. Second was Well Tuned ridden by Mark Enright for John W. Nicholson and third was Give Her Bach for Patrick Cronin, ridden by Pierce Gallagher.
We had to wait until the eighth and final race, the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders' Fund mares' bumper, for the second Wexford success. Little Mitch, trained by Yvonne Latta at Ballycarney, and owned and bred by her husband, Charlie, was a convincing winner under Pa King.
This was a case of patience rewarded as Little Mitch was off the track for quite a while from 2013 before making a re-appearance last April. Her win was no big surprise as she was punted in from 13/2 to 4/1. She bravely saw off the challenge of the favourite, Howayadoing, ridden by Nina Carbery for Gordon Elliott, with Ellie's Choice from the John Kiely yard in third.
There was a strong Kilkenny dominance on races three to six with four different trainers from the county sending out winners, and it was a night to remember for Danny Mullins who rode a hat-trick.
He struck first in the two miles, four furlongs maiden hurdle on the even money favourite, Last Encounter, trained at Goresbridge by Margaret Mullins. He dominated the race under a positive ride and romped home 15 lengths clear of 25/1 shot, Don't Be Hasty, ridden by Seán Flanagan, who edged out John Patrick Ryan's Jesmond Lodge.
Danny kept it in the family for his second win in the three miles maiden hurdle with the fancied 9/4 favourite, Ballinaboola Prince, trained by his father, Tony, but it was a desperately close thing. His uncle Willie's Grangeclare Rosa, Paul Townend's only ride of the night, took it up on the run in after the last but Danny forced the favourite back up in the closing strides to win by a head. Eight lengths back in third was Paul Nolan's Star in the Dark (25/1), ridden by Mikey Fogarty, a promising effort.
Danny Mullins completed his hat-trick in Division 1 of the Phelim Byrne Séisúir at Wexford Racecourse handicap hurdle over two miles and two furlongs on Moonunderwater, trained at Gowran in Kilkenny by Richie Donohoe.
Backed from 13/2 into 11/2, this one did not look like a winner when only sixth after the second last, but eventually got the message under Mullins' pressure and won handily enough in the end. Second was Peter McCreery's Miss Faithful (12/1) and third was 2/1 favourite, Slygufttou, which led at the last but faded.
The fourth Kilkenny winner was in the two miles handicap hurdle when bottom weight, Lily the Lioness, pulled off an 11/1 surprise under Mark Enright for trainer Garrett James Power from Windgap, and owner/breeder, P. McCarthy.
He came to dispute the lead at the last and stayed on well to beat hot 9/10 favourite, Tempo Mac, ridden by Bryan Cooper for Gordon Elliott. Crystal Earth, ridden by David Mullins for Peter Fahey, was third at 5/1.
Seven-pound claimer, Adam O'Neill, struck for a big €11,000 pot in the Jog for Jockeys two miles handicap chase on the favourite, Beckwith Star (backed in from 7/2 to 5/2) in the finish of the night.
It was a battle of stable-mates as the top two are both trained in Waterford by Henry de Bromhead. Experienced Alan Lynch on Tisamystery (5/1) seemed to have it in the bag after the last, but his horse idled in front and allowed O'Neill to get back up by a short head on the favourite. Paul Nolan's Theatre Mill ((9/2) was third under Mikey Fogarty, three lengths back.
In Division 2 of the Phelim Byrne Séisiúr at Wexford Racecourse handicap hurdle, top weight Keep Swinging (9/1), under Barry Cash, made the long journey from Limerick worthwhile for the Michael Hourigan stable with a tidy win, from Marvellous James (13/2), ridden by S.D. Bohan for P.J. Costello and Marshim (12/1), ridden by Andrew McNamara for Willie Power.
The next meeting at Wexford is on Friday evening, July 3, when a collection will be taken up for some equipment needed by Robbie McNamara in his battle to recover from appalling injuries after a fall at Wexford in March.
There is a two-day meeting at the end of July, Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25.