Faultless Flaxen Flare lights up the day at Down Royal
Flaxen Flare, owned by Templepatrick-based Joe and Pat Sloan, provided a local winner in the Charles Caldwell Memorial Beginners Chase at Down Royal when giving a faultless display to open his chasing account for trainer Gordon Elliott.
Winner of the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago, Flaxen Flare, with Barry O'Neill on board, followed early leader Young Palm, also owned by the Sloan family, for a long way before breaking free two from home.
County Meath trainer Elliott said afterwards: "He's had a lovely education. Barry Geraghty rode him at Galway and said he might not have the scope for winter ground. Barry O'Neill gave him a lovely ride. He's riding lots of horses at weekends in point to points and most of my jockeys are injured or suspended."
Top amateur O'Neill enjoyed a double at the meeting when partnering Make A Track, again trained by Elliott, to victory in the feature chase.
Joint favourite Riverside City, also trained by Elliott, fell at the first fence while the other joint favourite, Morney Wing, having made much of the running, unseated his rider at the penultimate fence when in front.
That left the locally-trained Marito and Make A Track - runner-up in the race last year - to battle to the line with the latter prevailing by half a length.
Elliott continued: "That's a good day - I'm not sure what next. Barry said he was pulling himself up in front."
The day's racing got under way with a photo finish showing that Space Ship had beaten The Nutcracker by a head.
Space Ship, trained by Robbie Hennessey and partnered to perfection by Johnny Burke, was always handy and delivered after the final flight to get the verdict.
Hennessey said: "Johnny said he filled his lungs coming to the last. He had a wind operation and is going to be a nice horse for the summer.
"I was disappointed he didn't win last time but he wasn't 100 per cent right the last day, he was quiet in himself afterwards. He ran well but wasn't himself. He's had a few niggly problems."
The second race supplied a three-way photo finish after favourite Diesel Ten looked comfortable while leading going to the last but he finished fourth as a trio of runners swept past with the Eoin Doyle-trained Shaiyzar, with Micky Butler in the saddle, denying Pace and Passion and Percy's Choice.
Doyle said: "He stayed at it well and a good jump at the last made the difference.
"It was going well turning in and then he hit a bit of a flat spot. He was unlucky the last day when he was badly hampered."
Punters who supported the Tony Martin-trained Marinero from evens in the morning to 4/6 favourite on track were never worried as Champion jockey Ruby Walsh followed the locally-trained Killultagh Sarah before joining the leader at the penultimate flight and going to score by 20 lengths.
Martin said of the impressive performance: "He'll probably have a break now and go chasing next season."
Lord Fingal and Illusion Of Time matched strides for most of the race in the hunterchase prior to the latter making a blunder four from home, after which the event was turned into a procession by the Jim Dreaper-trained Lord Fingal, who recorded a fourth straight win.
Dreaper said: "That's it for the season. He will go handicap chasing next season."