Leading trainer last year with 18 winners, Gordon Elliott consolidated his position with a treble at Downpatrick last weekend while the Watson family, who are long associated with Ulster racing, registered the sole local victory.
Armagh trainer Keith Watson supplied the local winner at the fixture when Finea with Johnny King aboard proved the runaway and facile winner of the hunterchase as runner-up El Grande stayed on well in the closing stages.
The winner went to the front on the downhill run and was assured of success after jumping the final two fences.
Watson said: “We were reasonably confident coming. He finish placed at a point to point a couple of weeks ago and has improved for that outing. He’s had several minor problems but if okay after tonight will run again at Tipperary next week.”
A very wet evening at Downpatrick failed to deter punters and the opening race saw trainer Gordon Elliott open his scoring with Ibsen which with the eventual runner-up, Unic De Bersy, were always at the front end prior to the pair drawing clear in the closing stages and the favourite asserting at the final flight.
The winning jockey Kevin Sexton said afterwards: “He jumped great and we fancied him today. It was nice to see the rain come. I had plenty of horse under me.”
The winner is owned by At The Races TV presenter Gary O’Brien along with Eamon Collins, Connor Brett and the winning trainer.
The handicap chase produced a thrilling finish with a photo finish providing winner number two of the night for Elliott when Le Grand Chene scored by a head from favourite, Halls Bridge.
Winning rider Bryan Cooper said: “I had plenty of horse. He’s tough and is an out-and-out stayer. This place wouldn’t be ideal for him.”
The hat trick on the night was duly completed when Nina Carberry steered the aptly named – Ultimate Horseman to victory in the bumper beating the locally trained, Itshard To No which looks capable of winning a similar contest before too long.
A trio of horses jumped the final flight in the mares hurdle in unison with Josephine Marcus in the middle of Feel The Air and Catimini, however it was the first named trained by Noel Meade which kept on best in the testing conditions to prevail with claiming jockey, Ger Fox aboard.
The winning jockey said: “She jumped very well and I had to keep her covered. The blinkers kept her straight. She probably would have won in Limerick but she got pushed a bit and took the easy way out. She has improved a bit more and put her head down and went for the gap. She’s a nice mare to look forward to.”
The Gillian Callaghan trained, Redclue with Danny Mullins in the saddle proved the twenty length winner of the handicap hurdle.
The winning trainer said of the winner, which was making his debut for the County Meath handler: “A good first run for us. We probably have him six or seven weeks. He schooled well over hurdles. He’s genuine and better ground would suit him better. That’s the first winner for the syndicate. There are four in it and they are from Sligo and Donegal.”
The Edward O’Grady trained and JP Mc Manus owned, Getting Late ran out the very easy winner of the maiden hurdle in the hands of top jockey, Mark Walsh unlucky when prevented by injury to being crowned last season’s champion jockey.
Edward O’Grady said: “The last time he ran Alan Crowe said that he should step up in trip.”