First winner of the year simply Blissful
Blissful Moment proved a very easy winner of the handicap chase at Down Royal, the first race of the year in Ulster.
The winner, trained by Noel Meade and owned by JP McManus, denied the very well supported favourite Witness Of Fashion which could never get on terms.
Blissful Moment was in the rear for most of the race but led before the penultimate fence and won going away with Paul Carberry in the saddle.
Meade said: "He probably likes the very heavy ground. It slows the rest of them down."
The Meade/Carberry combination quickly completed a double when Didntitellya landed the handicap chase for the Belfast-based Hunt family who have a long association with the course and an excellent strike rate at the Lisburn venue.
The winner was always in front and made all the running to score, relegating odds on favourite Katnap to runner-up.
Meade explained: "We always said that the minute he saw a fence he was a totally different horse.
"He ran in a bumper and was disappointing and in his three hurdles (every) one was worse than the other.
"When we schooled him though he jumped brilliantly and Paul said he came on the bridle and was a different horse.
"We gave plenty of money for him as well (as Blissful Moment) and it's nice to see him showing something."
Carberry added: "As soon as he saw the first he lit up and he jumped brilliantly the whole way.
"It's amazing how much it brings them on. It was a different story over hurdles – he just didn't like it at all."
The Philip Rothwell-trained Mark Me Up proved the convincing winner of the Martinstown Opportunity Chase, under Andrew Ring, for claiming riders when just leading at the last and staying on best in the testing conditions to beat stable companion Popaflora.
Rothwell advised: "He won off a similar mark last year. I fancied him a bit at Naas the last day but the hill seemed to catch him out a bit.
"We said we'd come back here as he won over hurdles here before.
"The horses have been in really good form the last couple of weeks and hopefully there are many more winners to come."
Divine Rhapsody, considered good enough to contest the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper as a young horse in 2011 prior to being off the course for a year, rewarded connections and provided Rothwell with a double when readily claiming the novice handicap hurdle.
Say It Again supplied a shock 25/1 success for trainer/owner/breeder Noel Hynds who is based outside Dromore, Co Down and a familiar figure on the Ulster point to point circuit.
Hynds stated: "I hoped he would run well today. I hope the handicapper is not hard on him – I'll look for a handicap next."
Leavethelighton, the evens favourite, could only manage second place.
The photo finish was needed for the first time on the day when Gold Not Silver, with Davy Russell on board, denied a local horse by a short head – Court Jester trained at Ballygowan by Sammy Wilson.
A stewards inquiry was immediately called but it was quickly announced that the result would stand.
Corskeagh Royale had attempted to make all the running before finishing third and several were in contention three from home but the eventual first and second drew clear and fought out the finish from the last.
Court Jester got his head in front before the last but Gold Not Silver battled to the line to win for trainer Adrian Joyce.