Favourite backers enjoyed quite a profitable start to the New Year at Fairyhouse yesterday as well-bred pair Kandari and Cockleshell Road opened their accounts over timber in style.
Successful in decent flat handicaps on the French circuit, Kandari was backed as if defeat was out of the question for the opening New Year Maiden Hurdle and duly delivered, though supporters had a few anxious moments.
Ridden with typical confidence by Paul Carberry, Noel Meade's odds-on charge crept into contention on the inner rounding the final bend as Paul Townend also stalked the leaders aboard Gentleman Jeff.
For several strides approaching, and after, the final flight, the issue seemed in the balance. But Carberry had kept a bit up his sleeve and the French import scored in the colours of champion owner JP McManus who was represented by no less than six of the 24 runners in this event.
Joint-owners Eamon Duignan and Cathal McCarthy from Navan were on hand to see previous course bumper scorer Cockleshell Road doing the business for them once more.
Andrew McNamara always had the favourite in close touch with the pace and it was obvious from three out that main market rival Themoonandsixpence was the sole remaining threat to their supremacy.
Indeed, it was only between the last two flights that Cockleshell Road got the better of his persistent rival on ground that rode "very holding" according to McNamara.
Those conditions, however, favour his charge according to trainer Edward O'Grady, who revealed that the winner was a very slow learner when first schooled over obstacles.
"He's warming to his task though and is a very relaxed horse. Those two pulled a long way clear and are smart prospects," O'Grady said.
In the wars at Punchestown the previous afternoon, Mark Walsh showed no ill effects from the shoulder blow he shipped there as he guided Bobsthewizard to an overdue success in the opening leg of the Jackpot.
"Mark is a cool rider and had our horse in the right place all the way," remarked trainer Francis Flood, whose team are back in good form after Bobsthewizard had got first run on one-paced market leader Lochan Lacha.”
The same Walsh-Flood team's hopes of a quick double with Mr Aussie in the following handicap chase were dashed when Mutineer rallied bravely from the last fence for a determined Paddy Flood to outstay the favourite.
"That was a badly needed winner - I thought the New Year was going to start the same way as the old one ended" said Dessie Hughes, whose fleet of runners failed to hit the target during the Festive season.
The Curragh trainer is relieved that veteran stable star Hardy Eustace appears none the worse for a rare poor display behind Sublimity last Monday.
"I knew the horse wasn't himself at Leopardstown because he was very quiet when I saddled him.
“He was just lifeless on the day, but seems okay now although we won't be making any plans for the moment," Hughes added.