Court battles to Leopardstown win
Long odds-on favourite Clondaw Court was made to pull out all the stops as he got up right on the line in the Bookmakers Bar At Bewleys Hotel Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.
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The imposing six-year-old was a 27-length winner of a Punchestown bumper in November of last year and although he has been sidelined since, he was still expected to take care of five opponents in what looked a surprisingly weak contest.
The Willie Mullins-trained 2-9 chance travelled powerfully for much of the two-and-a-quarter-mile journey, but looked in serious trouble as Ruby Walsh got to work from the home turn.
Little Rocky looked sure to win as he approached the final flight, but despite an untidy leap, Clondaw Court began to bridge the gap on the run-in and got up by a head under a power-packed Walsh ride.
Mullins said: "I'm happy that he won, but we probably should have made the running with him, to make more use of him.
"I haven't talked to Ruby or Rich (Ricci, owner) yet, but I would think we will be stepping him up in trip to two and a half miles plus from now on."
Western Boy made a winning start to his jumping career with a smart display under David Casey in the Thorntons Recycling Hurdle.
Fresh from opening his bumper account at the fourth attempt at Thurles last month, Pat Fahy's four-year-old was a 12-1 shot, with Daneking the 5-2 favourite for Mullins and Walsh.
The latter cut out much of the running, but had no answer when Western Boy quickened up to lead approaching the final flight.
Fahy's charge galloped all the way to the line to score by three and a half lengths, with Kylestyle grabbing the runner-up spot from Daneking.
Casey said: "He is a nice horse. He has solid bumper form and he jumped well.
"I didn't intend being in front so early but he kept galloping. Pat is in Limerick I think, and his horses are in good form."
Davy Russell rode his 1000th National Hunt winner as 7-4 favourite Sea Light won the Copper Face Jacks Handicap Hurdle.
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The Charles Byrnes-trained five-year-old travelled ominously well and skipped clear from the final flight to beat Beneficial Spirit by three lengths.
Russell said: "I didn't even realise that was my 1,000th winner. "I couldn't have done it for a better man. He (Byrnes) has supported me throughout my career, and he has been with me all the way through.
"This fellow jumped great and the nice ground helped him.
"It was a competitive race and it's always nice to win up here."
Cooper completed a double on the afternoon as he steered Paul Nolan's King Vuvuzela to victory in the Racing Post All You Need For Irish Racing Handicap Chase.
Sent off at 5-1 having finished a creditable third in a similarly competitive heat at Punchestown last month, King Vuvuzela began to make inroads on the leaders leaving the back straight and was one of a number still in with a chance approaching the final fence.
Top weight Savello moved into contention going well, with 4-1 favourite Cairdin also in there pitching, but King Vuvuzela finished best to beat the latter by two and three-quarter lengths.
Nolan said: "Bryan gave him a lovely ride. They went a right pace early on but then they stopped in front and this race tends to go like that as we won it two years back with Arklow Ger.
"He didn't jump well early on, but he jumped much better towards the end, and Bryan gave him a great ride."