Dromara trainer, Caroline Mc Caldin supplied a local success at the final Downpatrick fixture of the year when Rubiana (8s to 7/2 favourite) landed the AJC Group Handicap Chase.
The point-to-point winner owned and bred by Comber-based Alan Wishart was opening her account on the track proper writes Joe Kavanagh.
Under a patient, confident ride by JJ Slevin having been in the rear for most of the trip, he arrived at the last to overhaul the leader Loch Luatha and shoot clear on the run to the line.
Mc Caldin said: “Rubiana came to me a year ago and she has been second and placed. She seems to love it around here and JJ (Slevin) gave her a brilliant ride. She did it really well.
“I expected her to run well but when I looked up and saw she was favourite I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t know if the trip would be ideal but there was nothing else for her coming up.”
Top jockey Davy Russell highlighted his talents winning the opening maiden hurdle and the most valuable race of the day on Tullybeg.
The former champion settled the Gordon Elliott-trained runner in third for most of the race but a blunder three from home unfazed the rider who then proceeded to slip up the inside going into the final flight and soon assert from the locally owned runner up Face The Odds and score in facile fashion.
Elliott said: “He’s a grand horse and he’ll do his job. He enjoyed that trip and there is improvement to come. He’ll jump a fence in time.”
Laughing Trix (40s to 13/2) ran second for most of the long distance MB McGrady &Co Chartered Accountants Handicap Hurdle but lost her place dropping to sixth two from home.
However, the Dermot Mc Laughlin-trained winner with Conor Maxwell aboard kept on and was fourth over the last prior to staying on up the hill between horses to prevail and land the gamble.
The locally trained pair Blue Markie and Greenandwhitearmy filled third and fourth places respectively. Mc Loughlin said: “He (Conor Maxwell) thought jumping the last that he was home as one thing she does do is keep galloping.
“She’s a grand mare and I always thought she would win a race somewhere along the line. She won her point-to-point first-time out and has just disappointed a bit.
“Everything came well today – the ground and the stiff track and she just kept plugging on.”
The Noel Meade-trained Farceur Du Large partnered by Sean Flanagan was always in the first three as the locally trained Grey Girly attempted to make all prior to winning the Ulster Carpets Hurdle.
The winner despite a mistake at the penultimate flight improved on the downhill run to lead at the last supplying the Gigginstown Stud operation owned by Michael O’Leary with a winner and third ( Emmemi Public ) as Max Flamingo ran on late to secure second.
Meade said: “I’ve been expecting that performance for quite some time – I never thought we would be coming here to run in a non-winners’ maiden hurdle.
“He’s a gorgeous-looking horse, you would think looking at him he is every inch a chaser. Whether he stays over hurdles or goes over fences, I wouldn’t know as I will have to talk to Eddie and Michael (O’Leary). He probably will stay over hurdles.”
Meade and stable jockey Flanagan doubled up when Beacon Edge was the facile winner of the Randox Health Hurdle. Curlew Hill (third) and the winner went head to head for most of the race but the winner was always travelling fluently and quickly asserted at the last having jumped into the lead two out.
Meade added: “He couldn’t have done it any easier. We’ll have to talk with Eddie and Michael (O’Leary) about whether he goes over fences or stays over hurdles.
“If he stays over hurdles he will go for those conditions hurdle races. Nicky Richards bought him and sold him and Nicky was crying because he had nobody to buy him. It was killing Nicky to let him go.”
Trainer Arthur Moore recorded his first winner since this month last year when Fag An Bealach (8s to 5/1) claimed the Beginners Chase with Arthur Moore on board.
The winner partnered by Donagh Meyler was patiently ridden making steady progress behind the leaders.
The Abbey ridden by Davy Russell looked the winner at the final fence but the winner stayed on best on the run in to gain victory. Meyler said: “She had a couple of good runs in defeat (over hurdles).
“We were happy with her and she schooled well during the week. Arthur (Moore) was very positive on her.
“It’s great to get a winner for him as he’s been very loyal to me over the years.”
The two principals in the market dominated to finish of the bumper when favourite Flanking Maneuver with Finny Maguire in the saddle very easily denied Corran Cross providing trainer Noel Meade with a hat trick on the day.