Azorian back in winning groove
Trainer Eoin Griffin is keeping his fingers crossed Azorian has turned a corner after the highly tried gelding gained an overdue success at Navan.
The seven-year-old chased home the likes of Apache Stronghold, Briar Hill, Faugheen and Vautour as a novice hurdler last season and was third behind The Tullow Tank on his fencing bow at Fairyhouse in November.
After pulling up at Punchestown a couple of weeks later, Azorian reverted to the smaller obstacles when third at Clonmel last month, and he was a 4-6 favourite back over fences in the Follow Navan On Facebook Beginners Chase.
Sent straight to the lead by Bryan Cooper, his round of jumping was not quite error-free, but ultimately he had plenty in the locker and came home eight lengths clear of Big Kern, who was the only rival able to throw down a challenge in the closing stages.
Griffin said: "It's nice to have him back on a winning track. He's been a bit frustrating after showing a lot of promise early on. He's had breathing problems and has had a lot of operations. He could keep going during the summer as long as the ground isn't quick."
Cooper went on to complete a double on the afternoon, steering the Tony Martin-trained No Secrets to victory in the Newgrange Veterans Handicap Chase after leading for most of the way.
A winner for Warren Greatrex and David Pipe in Britain, No Secrets was a 4-1 shot on his first start for his new trainer following a long lay-off and got the better of Letter Of Credit by three-quarters of a length after the runner-up made a hash of the final fence.
Hot favourite Glenquest looked likely to triumph between the final two fences, but faded quickly.
Martin said: "I have a few nice horses for Malcolm Denmark. He has a lot of interest in Ireland and has bought a few nice horses. I've known Malcolm for a long time, since the days of Monsignor. He offered me a job at that time and we've been good friends since. We're looking for another Monsignor!"
Martin also landed the bumper when the JP McManus-owned Anibale Fly (5-4 favourite), ridden by Donagh Meyler, caught long-time leader Robin Of Locksley in the final furlong and forged six and a half lengths clear.
It completed a double for the owner, whose second colours were carried to victory by Jody McGarvey on The Parishioner (11-1) in the Dunsany Handicap Chase for trainer John Kiely.
Noel Meade has kept the winners ticking along recently and the County Meath handler put another on the scoreboard when Wildebeest won as he liked in the Nobber Maiden Hurdle.
Paul Carberry rode a typically patient race, creeping into contention on the 11-4 joint-favourite and allowing Sizing Titanium to jump the final flight upsides before sauntering past on the run-in to score by a very easy two lengths in the testing conditions.
Meade said: "He worked last Tuesday with the horse that won yesterday (Heck Thomas) and I was thinking either the other horse worked badly or he worked exceptionally well. He's a chaser for next year. He's a big horse by Oscar and could make a nice one."
Sam Red was an emphatic winner of the Racing 15th March Maiden Hurdle, though the manner of the victory was different as he cleared right away after giving punters a scare with a stumble following a clumsy leap at the last.
Alan Fleming's evens favourite had the race in the bag at that stage and he soon recovered to pass the post 26 lengths ahead in the hands of Adrian Heskin.
David Mullins is making a name for himself and the claimer gave Mine Now a confident ride to win the Garlow Cross Handicap Hurdle, making smooth progress to take over from Lion Na Bearnai going to the last and driving Peter Fahey's 3-1 joint-favourite four and three-quarter lengths clear.