The Stuart Crawford trained, Ardmillan landed back-to-back victories when scoring in good style at Fairyhouse last week to supplement success at Down Royal on his previous start.
The local winner travelled well before asserting at the final fence with Anthony Fox aboard.
The Larne trainer said: “That was definitely the best he has gone. He was a lot more professional today. The last day he hit the front too soon and I told Anthony to ride him with more patience. I thought he gave him a great ride, even better than when he won on him last time. Hopefully he keeps improving. He likes the ground and is a good jumper. He appreciates the big tracks with big fences.
“I thought he could maybe be an Ulster National horse. He won a point-to-point at Armagh which has similar ups and downs. Hopefully in time he’ll develop into a nice staying chaser. If he doesn’t do a lot more this season he’s won two now. He’s still a big frame of a horse and hopefully there is a bit more to come.”
The winning jockey Anthony Fox, who also scored on the horse at the Maze and is based with the trainer, said: “He’s progressive and coming on in leaps and bounds. He’ll probably stay further so there are plenty of options with him.”
The Ulster handler is a regular seller of high profile youngsters and was delighted that Twentytwo’s Taken which he sold at Brightwells Sales last month for £150,000 made an impressive winning debut over hurdles at Fakenham and fitted with a first time hood for British trainer, David Pipe.
Team Crawford moved on to Ayr on Friday with good fortune remaining on their side and the Scottish venue supplying a double. Fine Rightly with former Champion jump jockey, Davy Russell enlisted to partner the local horse saw Fine Rightly make all the running for a facile victory in the novice chase prior to Baby Bach completing the double in the bumper having been to the fore throughout with the trainer’s brother Stephen in the saddle.
The Crawford trained, Royal Sea Breeze had to settle for fourth in the handicap chase behind Milan Flyer – the winner providing Draperstown based handler, Noel Kelly with another cross channel success. Saturday saw luck desert the Crawford brothers team.
The high-class Gilt Shadow which had been unraced for almost a year made his debut over fences at Navan and was clear and appearing set for an impressive winning debut over the larger obstacles only to crash through the final fence and fall with the race at his mercy.
Meanwhile, at Doncaster Yes Tom representing the Larne stable fell at only the second fence in the fixture’s feature – the Skybet Chase.
Gilt Shadow’s departure in the beginners chase allowed Apache Jack owned by Templepatrick pair, Joe and Pat Sloan, to open his account with the winner trained by Sandra Hughes, who now holds full trainer’s licence following the recent sad passing of her father, Dessie, last year.
The winning trainer advised: “He’s a good ground horse and wants three miles and will be better on better ground. He’ll get an entry for the RSA Novice Chase at Cheltenham Festival and we’ll have a look. Soft ground is okay but he really wants good.”
Apache Jack was placed third last year in the Bartlett Novice Hurdle at the Festival.
Snow Falcon supplied another locally owned winner when landing the long distance maiden hurdle for Navan based trainer Noel Meade with Ger Fox aboard.
The trainer stated: “Paul (Carberry) is very sore - he says he has a broken rib and there is nothing he can do with it. He said it seems to be popping in and out which doesn’t sound good.
“He [Snow Falcon] doesn’t like that ground and will be better on better [going]. He was a bit sloppy jumping and Ger (Fox) said when he left him alone he got under them but he didn’t want to ask him too much on that ground.
“We’ll go for a novice as he gets that trip (2m7f) and Nina (Carberry) said in the beginning a trip would suit. He’ll get an entry in the two races at Cheltenham (Neptune and Albert Bartlett) and we’ll see what happens.”
The Navan meeting concluded with an Ulster owned and trained winner when the Brian Hamilton trained Illuminati rallied to excellent effect to score by a head in the bumper with amateur rider Declan Lavery, who is based with the Downpatrick trainer, in the saddle.
The horse is owned by Belfast based Sean Macklin – a longstanding patron of the local stable who also owned the very useful, Amstecos.
While this commentator considered that Declan Lavery excelled in the saddle – the Navan stewards were of a different opinion giving the local rider a one day ban.
The Stewards report detailed: “The Stewards interviewed Mr D. G. Lavery, rider of Illuminati (FR), concerning his use of the whip in this race. Evidence was heard from the rider concerned. Having viewed a recording of the race and considered the evidence the Stewards were of the opinion that the rider was in breach of Regulation 10.3(f), in that he used the whip with excessive frequency and having considered his record, suspended him for one race day.”
The Dundalk all-weather track on Friday night saw Togoville complete a hat-trick at the venue and likewise a treble for County Tyrone trainer Georgios Pakidis, who is based at owner Patrick McCann’s training complex in County Tyrone.
The Greek ex-jockey turned trainer advised: “He’s in the best form of his life. He’s doing great and he’s healthy and sound. He’s a better horse than this level. We’ll go on turf with him too.
“He got a bit boxed in tonight but I think there’s more to come from him.
“I’d like to see him against good horses. He loves to battle and race - he’s a real racehorse.”
Judy Maxwell – the popular secretary of the Ulster Region Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Regional Manager for Baileys Horse Feeds - took five minutes off from her busy schedule to watch her son, David steer ex Irish point to pointer, Out Now to a facile victory at Warwick on Thursday.
The Ulster owner/rider is hoping his latest purchase will make into a Foxhunters contender for the Cheltenham and Aintree contests.