Lion roars again at Fairyhouse
Tom Gibney's 2012 Irish National winner Lion Na Bearnai scored for the first time since his biggest success when winning the Family Fun Days At Fairyhouse Rated Chase to spark further National dreams.
- Related Content
Now 12, Lion Na Bearnai has struggled with injuries since his day in the sun but made a good reappearance over hurdles in November.
He showed very little over fences at Navan last month and was sent off at 14/1 in the five-runner field but jumped well for Andrew Lynch and outstayed the 6/5 favourite Competitive Edge to score by four lengths.
With a win under his belt Gibney is now dreaming of Aintree and the Crabbie's Grand National.
"I said to the lads (Lock Syndicate, owners) beforehand even though they were giving him no chance, if he jumped, he'd be there or thereabouts. That's exactly how it turned out and he loves this place," said Gibney.
"It's great to still have him and for him to still be showing that ability. He's felt good all season. We were delighted with his first run over hurdles but he was disappointing last time. He didn't jump well which isn't like him at all.
"If he hadn't run well here and was dropped a few pounds we might have thought about coming back here for the Irish National. He's in at Aintree and hopefully we'll head there."
Willie Mullins' Suntiep was a fortunate winner of the 5 Star Sunday - 6th April Beginners Chase for Ruby Walsh.
Having duelled with Si C'Etait Vrai for much of the contest he was set to come off second best but Dessie Hughes' charge took a crashing fall at the last, allowing the 4/5 favourite to come home in splendid isolation.
Mullins earmarked the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham for the winner.
"It was very fortuitous but apart from that he jumped great. He has the four-miler written all over him," said Mullins.
"He probably hasn't a lot of experience going there but he seems a natural jumper. I'd nearly get my licence out again to ride him!"
Timmy Hyde has big hopes for O Maonlai after he beat 24 rivals in the Bobbyjo Bistro Perfect Packages 2014 Maiden Hurdle.
Martin Ferris was sporting colours worn by Cheltenham hero Generosa, a smashing mare who won what is now the Pertemps Final and was third in the Coral Cup 24 hours later.
Third and just five lengths behind The Tullow Tank on his hurdling debut, O Maonlai was also not disgraced behind the smart Rathvinden last time out.
"I don't know where we'll go now, but he'll make a fine chaser one day. You'd be a little bit worried with any horse on that ground," said Hyde.
"He was a bit disappointing in Cork but to be fair I think I left him a bit short as he blew hard afterwards. He's very well bred and is from the family of a lot of good hurdlers like Gaye Brief."
Shantou Ed (10/1) continued the good run of Pat Fahy by winning the two-mile maiden hurdle under Mark Walsh.
Fahy said: "I always thought a bit of him. His first run in Listowel was a great run. In Naas he was travelling well but he slipped turning in and nearly came down. He's very laid back and does everything very quietly. He loves the soft ground."
Witness Of Fashion (7/1) gave trainer Patrick Rooney just his second ever winner in the Follow Fairyhouse On Facebook Handicap Chase - nine years after his first.
"I got my licence 10 years ago and I had a winner in my first year. We've been a long time trying for another one," said Rooney.
Stuart Crawford remains a yard on the upgrade and he bookended the card with Man With Van (9/4 favourite) in the opening Amazing April - Top Class Jumps At Fairyhouse Rated Hurdle, before Twentytwo's Taken also obliged as a 9/4 favourite in the Sign Up For Fairyhouse Newsletter Mares (Pro/Am) Flat Race.
The latter will be considered for the mares' bumper at Aintree.