Memorable track first for Power and James
While Leopardstown commanded most attention over the festive break, the main local success was at Down Royal and Limerick, with it being a very special week for trainer Pierce Michael Power from Fethard and rider Rob James from Killanne who combined to record first-ever track successes for both.
Pierce Power is a member of the famous Fethard horsey family and his Burning Ambition has been a star on the point-to-point circuit with four wins on the trot. He made a winning transition to the track in the Hunter Chase under a confident Rob James ride at a prohibitive 4/6 at Limerick.
He is now qualified for Cheltenham but Power says he will give him one more run before the Festival to gain more experience. It was a first track success for both Power and James.
'Rob is class and is the best young rider around on the point-to-point circuit,' Power said of his jockey. Shea Slevin's (Caim) Senators Glory (33/1) was third under Shane Fitzgerald.
Paul Nolan, whose horses are running into form, took the concluding novice hurdle with the well-backed Monotype (7/1) in the familiar Wexford colours of John Brennan, under promising five-pound claimer, Donie McInerney. Nolan was delighted and said the horse seemed to relish the testing conditions but added 'we'll keep our feet on the ground'.
Nolan had supplied second in the opening maiden hurdle with Denham Hana (33/1) under McInerney, behind a Willie Mullins/Rich Ricci hotshot, Sympa Des Flo.
On St. Stephen's Day the main Wexford action was at Down Royal up north where there were three locally-ridden winners. Jamie Codd showed his strength with a hard-earned double for Gordon Elliott, and Seán Flanagan scored for Noel Meade, and also at Limerick Harley Dunne dotted up on Gracemount for Seán Thomas Doyle in the €16,500 mares' handicap hurdle.
Dunne (Blackwater) was a confident winner on Doyle's (Ballindaggin) Gracemount (11/2) over Elliott's Pat's Oscar (11/2), following up on a win at Punchestown in November. The winning pair are more often noted on the point-to-point circuit.
'That's my first Christmas winner; she does everything so easy and it's great for her owners, the Kavanagh family,' Doyle said.
Paul Nolan's Discorama (5/1) was second in the €15,500 hurdle under Kevin Sexton, behind Rachael Blackmore on Ellemarie Holden's Ex Patriot (7/2).
At Down Royal there was a thrilling and hard-fought all-Wexford finish to the opener with Jamie Codd and Seán Flanagan battling it out on a pair of Gigginstown runners in the beginners' chase.
Codd led all the way on Sutton Manor (8/13f) for Elliott and held on by three parts of a length from Flanagan on Meade's Burgas (15/8). Liz Doyle's Justmemyselfandi (9/1) was a distant third.
Codd completed the double in the two-mile maiden hurdle aboard Elliott's Stooshie (7/2), just holding off the favourite, Judgement Day (9/4), by a neck. He was a well-beaten second in the bumper on Dorydalis (6/4f), behind Nina Carberry on Meade's Brace Yourself (7/4).
It was a bit of a surprise that Flanagan was riding at Down Royal rather than Leopardstown or Limerick, but his trip was justified when he had a cosy win on The Informer (7/1) for Seamus Fahey and was very close to a double with Burgas.
At Leopardstown, Jonathan Moore picked up a nice few rides for Noel Meade in the absence of Seán Flanagan and he had a pair of seconds to show, on Cask Mate (7/1) in the opener behind the day's shock winner, Ellie Mac (50/1), and on Bel Ami De Sivola (8/1) in the €27,000 Racing Post App handicap chase behind Henry De Bromhead's Tizamystery (16/1).
Moore had his big winner of the week in Limerick, however, on the Thursday when he gave a very good ride to Duca De Thaix (4/1) for Elliott and Gigginstown to win the featured €34,000 Grade 3 Irish Independent Hurdle, despite the horse running 'green'. He had two and a half lengths to spare on Joseph O'Brien's Us and Them.
On the Wednesday, Jamie Codd was booked to ride Elliott's Folsom Blue in the weather-hit Welsh National at Chepstow and his wasted trip may have cost him a couple of rides at home. In fact, it was a blank Wexford day at the main meeting at Leopardstown though there were two winners at Limerick in the concluding two races.
Flanagan was also responsible for the best local effort on Friday's card with second on Meade's Darkest Flyer (backed from 12s to 6s) in the €30,000 Top Oil handicap hurdle, less than a length behind Davy Russell on Mind's Eye (4/1f).
Down in Limerick, Paul Nolan's Itsnotinit (8/1) was second in the bumper under Barry O'Neill, just a length behind Tom Cooper's Jammy George (12/1), with Jamie Codd well back in third on Elliott's Crezic (15/8).