Horse Week: The opening race at Down Royal proves to be a family affair

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GRAND National winning jockey, Paul Townend, opted to take a day off bypassing his mounts at Down Royal last weekend, while rain arrived to alter the going too soft.

Racing got underway with a mares hurdle and Lady Bluebird making all to score easily while supplying a family success with the winner trained by Hugh Finnegan, an uncle of the winning rider amateur Eoghan Finnegan who was recording his second victory.

The victor always travelled very well and despite being challenged late by Milanway, which pecked on landing at the last, was never in danger of defeat.

Finnegan Junior said: “She’s very tough and gave me my first winner.

Weihnachts,  ridden by Simon Torrens, claims the marathon chase which concludes the Fibrus race day card giving JP Mc Manus a double following his victory in the Aintree Grand National. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)Weihnachts,  ridden by Simon Torrens, claims the marathon chase which concludes the Fibrus race day card giving JP Mc Manus a double following his victory in the Aintree Grand National. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)
Weihnachts, ridden by Simon Torrens, claims the marathon chase which concludes the Fibrus race day card giving JP Mc Manus a double following his victory in the Aintree Grand National. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)

“She was due to go to the sales but we changed our minds.

“She was always travelling well and jumps for fun. It’s great as all the family is here including cousins who came over from England.

“She’s hardy and she probably wants it even softer. The favourite Pallas Athene improved four from home, but only stayed on one pace.”

O’Faolains Glory, carrying bottom weight and fitted with first time cheek pieces, proved the facile winner of the Adare Hurdle for trainer Ian Donoghue.

Lady Bluebird ridden by Eoghan Finegan wins the first race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)Lady Bluebird ridden by Eoghan Finegan wins the first race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)
Lady Bluebird ridden by Eoghan Finegan wins the first race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)

The talented claiming rider Carl Millar adopted similar tactics to the winner of the opener, making all with a great display of hurdling.

Donoghue said: “She did it well and Carl gave her a great ride.

“She’s already schooled over fences and hopefully will progress.”

Donoghue completed a double when Tankardstown Diva landed the handicap hurdle with the trainer’s brother, Keith, in the saddle.

Politicise (right) ridden by Carl Millar beats Don't Talk in the 6th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)Politicise (right) ridden by Carl Millar beats Don't Talk in the 6th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)
Politicise (right) ridden by Carl Millar beats Don't Talk in the 6th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye)

The grey was an eye catcher throughout the race, travelling with ease, and lead after jumping three out and quickly ran away from the opposition.

Plain or Battered had attempted to make most of the running, while favourite A Great Buzz was never in contention.

Donoghue stated: “This is proving a lucky track for me and that’s my first double on the course proper.

“She’s learnt all the time and always keeps going.”

Dreal Deal ridden by Simon Torrens wins the 5th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)Dreal Deal ridden by Simon Torrens wins the 5th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)
Dreal Deal ridden by Simon Torrens wins the 5th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)

Dreal Deal has hit the headlines numerous times for various reasons when trained at Armagh by Ronan McNally, but opened his account for new trainer John Mc Connell when steered to an easy success by Omagh jockey Simon Torrens and readily denying favourite Duffle Coat.

The winner was always handy travelling well behind the leaders prior to leading before the last and galloping clear of rivals.

McConnell commented: “He enjoyed himself there and you could see the class he had.

“He needs to learn not to give the fences so much height.

“I’m delighted for the group of lads that I got to buy him.”

Mark Walsh, who won two Grade 1 races at Aintree on Friday, again carried his boss JP McManus’ colours to victory in the Fibrus Says No Price Hikes Hurdle aboard Intent Approach.

Tankardstown Diva ridden by Keith Donoghue wins the 4th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)Tankardstown Diva ridden by Keith Donoghue wins the 4th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)
Tankardstown Diva ridden by Keith Donoghue wins the 4th race. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)

The winner, trained by Charles Byrnes and the subject of a substantial gamble supported from 9/2 to evens favourite, was held up in the rear for most of the race and as a local winner looked likely with Annaghbeg and San Martino fighting out the finish the winner having improved at halfway quickly swept past the pair after the last.

Walsh said: “It took time to sort out his jumping which was his biggest problem.”

The 0-102 handicap chase produced a photo finish and, with the first two home jockeys having their heads down, the pair ended up crashing through the plastic rails after the line.

The winner, Politicise trained by Nigel Slevin with Carl Millar aboard, prevailed over Don’t Talk which was always prominent while the winner having lost his early prominent position was back to the fore from three out and kept on well on the rain softened ground.

Millar remarked: “That’s my first double. It was a tough battle to the line. He needs a bit of luck in his races and is a lovely horse to ride.”

The finale over a marathon trip provided doubles for JP Mc Manus and local jockey Simon Torrens when the Philip Rothwell trained Weihnachts under a very patient ride scored at 22/1.

Robinstown attempted to make all and, although staying on late, finished third while the locally trained Marronstown, having tracked the leader but outpaced briefly, rallied to finish second.

Rothwell said: “He’s had bits of issues and little bits of problems since Christmas, but I just thought in the last couple of weeks he has come good.

“He has been trained predominantly from the paddock for the last few weeks and we were just saying coming in today that he was literally squealing.

“He was really, really well in himself.”

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