County Meath trainer Gordon Elliott started where he left off at the last meeting when landing the opener at Downpatrick with Mooneister partnered by Luke Dempsey.
The winner, a multiple scorer on the level, was opening his account over jumps and having waited mid-division gradually improved his position and while lead over the last by Rufino kept on in very game fashion to overhaul the leader near the line.
Elliott said: “He had schooled well over hurdles at home. I’ll look for a winner of one hurdle possibly at Galway. He’ll mix and match during the summer on the flat and jumps.”
Autumn Shades trained by Michael Molloy showed her liking for the venue when gaining a repeat success in the mares handicap hurdle with top jockey Mark Walsh aboard.
The winner, owned by top bloodstock adviser Timmy Hyde, made all the running to score as Feel The Air kept on to take second.
Molloy said: “We love coming to Downpatrick as the track is so well maintained and they look after connections exceptionally well. Last time the course [Ballinrobe] proved too tight for her. She’s a big mare that will make into a chaser and will go chasing at some point. I’ll look for a hurdle race at Galway depending on what the handicapper does.”
Ballyfinboy was another to win after making all the running for trainer Jimmy Finn and jockey Kevin Sexton.
The winner had victory assured prior to the final flight and the County Tipperary trainer said: “He’ll go to the Galway Festival for the race he won two years ago. He didn’t get the trip last time and is taking his racing well. He might have another run before Galway.”
Bridget’s Pet impressed when claiming the beginners chase for trainer Alan Fleming and owner Barry Connell. Partnered by John Fitzpatrick, the winner was content to wait in the rear until improving three from home and leading at the final fence to win going away strongly in the closing stages.
Fleming said: “He’ll probably go for one of the handicap chases at Galway. He jumped great and I was impressed but doubly impressed by the jockey. He’s been with me about a year and ridden points winners.”
Fort Smith, previously a very frustrating hurdler, has proved a reformed character since going chasing and followed up his fencing debut success when landing the handicap chase for trainer Gordon Elliott.
The winner was partnered by former All-Ireland Champion point to point rider Jamie Codd after intended rider, Bryan Cooper, was stood down [bruised ribs] following an earlier fall.
Elliott, who continues to amass winners at the venue with a total of ten todate this term, said: “We had to send a jeep to get Jamie as he was walking the course and I wanted him as a replacement as he won a bumper on the horse. I’ve no idea what’s next! “
The long distance handicap chase supplied a thrilling finish. El Grande and Royal Chief went head-to-head from flag fall and soon established a fifteen length lead from the rest of the field.
The latter kept up the gallop as El Grande faded but Albarta, trained in County Galway by Val O’Brien, was produced to perfection by rising star Luke Dempsey to over haul the leader on the uphill climb providing the rider with a double on the day.
Listen Dear, trained by Irish Champion Jumps trainer, Willie Mullins and partnered by his son, Patrick, turned the concluding bumper into a procession. The combination went on to win the finale by the length of the straight.