Boxing Day racegoers were treated to a bonanza of local success at Down Royal.
Larne trainer Stuart Crawford supplied a locally owned and trained success when Ardmillan landed the handicap chase.
The winner is owned by Elizabeth Hamilton and was bred by David Mitchell – the pair are both County Down based.
The very well bred, Ardmillan, was partnered to victory by rider Antony Fox, who improved to lead three from home and kept on well in the closing stages with another local runner – One Cool Clarkson filling third while another local contender, Robyn Rua ran out three from home when short of room.
The winning rider said: “He jumped great and loved the ground. He was only idling. He’ll be better when he steps up in trip. That’s my first winner in Ireland for Stuart. I rode a winner in Perth for him. I’m based with him since last March.”
The Gordon Elliott trained Oscar Barton proved the emphatic winner of the featured hunterchase – leading three from home and keeping on resolutely in the closing stages with owner/rider Tim Donsworth in the saddle.
The winner put a disappointing effort at Kirkistown behind him when beating odds on favourite On The Fringe, which had claimed the previous year’s running of the race.
James trained by Ian Ferguson filled third while Sole Witness finished fourth for trainer, Colin McBratney. The Crossgar trainer supplied the victor of the Kirkistown event with the ex-Willie Mullins trained, Marito.
Owner/Rider, Tim Donsworth said: “He jumps and travels. He’ll hopefully go to Cheltenham now. To put On The Fringe to bed like that put a smile on my face.”
Colin McBratney gained compensation in the EBF Hurdle as Killultagh Sarah registered a surprise victory with Newry amateur rider Noel McParlan aboard.
The winner is owned and bred by Rose Boyd – joint owner of Champion Hurdler, Hurricane Fly – and made all the running and readily repelled the challenge of I Knew Well at the final flight.
McBratney said: “She’ll go for a mares novice hurdle or a novice hurdle. She’s a nice mare and over fences will be her future. She was well-in today with all the allowances and Noel [McParlan] taking 5lbs off.”
Newry rider and former Northern Region point to point Champion, Noel McParlan doubled up on the day when scoring on Drumlee Lad trained by his father Sean – the winner making all the running and despite veering last over the last held the late challenge of Shanliss. The Newry rider said: “He did it well. We were a bit worried about the ground but he handled it well. He’s still green. He’s for sale. We took him to Brightwells Sales but he didn’t sell on the day.”
Navan trainer Noel Meade maintained his excellent strike record at the venue when claiming the opener with Down Ace partnered by Ger Fox.
The son of Derby winner Generous, which stood at Scarvagh Stud, led five from home and asserted before the last to beat favourite, Empire Of Dirt with the Ballymena trained, Leighinmohr finishing third.
Owner Paul Sullivan in the absence of the Navan trainer said: “That was a fantastic performance across the big fences. I’m delighted with that. She had no problem with the ground, she has done it before in the UK particularly in Bangor on heavy ground. It was either here or Leopardstown. She’s consistently getting better in her races. I’ll have to talk to Noel about where she goes next, but we’ll keep her going.”
Ger Fox was another jockey to record a double at the Maze when Coney Choice beat Annakrista by a half-length in a photo finish with another local runner, Court Jester filling third place.
The winner lead between the last two flights and kept on well despite the strong challenge of the runner-up to supply Lady Jane Gillespie with her first winner on the course.
Fox said: “I didn’t want to go as early as that but he jumped the last well and was a worthy winner. He’s an honest horse. He dug deep and wants better ground.”
While Lady Gillespie added: “I’m nicely surprised how well he ran considering the ground. In racing you work hard and take the wins when they come along.”
Ballyclare-based James Jenkins, who has ridden in excess of 50 point to point winners, registered his first racecourse training victory when Rushvale [20/1] proved his close third place at last month’s festival was no fluke when yet again making all to beat favourite, Delegate, in the concluding bumper. This supplied Antony Fox with a riding double and match his twin brother Ger’s feat.
Jenkins said: “The first two times he ran he had a virus. I thought a lot of him. He was probably in need of the run last time. I came here confident.
“He’s for sale but he would be hard to replace so he’ll not be stolen off me!”
Anthony Fox added: “James said to hold on to him as long as I could. He did it nicely and has a big future.”