Gordon Elliott's double win and tonic cause for celebration
County Meath trainer, Gordon Elliott extended his tally of success at Downpatrick when Landau, with Davy Condon aboard, proved the easy winner to justify favouritism in the opening Maiden Hurdle at a Ladies Day meeting more suited to a winter wardrobe.
The winner waited in third as Captain Carleton assumed the lead half a mile from home and only after jumping the final flight cruised into the lead while the locally trained early leader Burnt Sienna kept to again in the closing stages to claim third.
Elliott said of the dual all-weather winner: "He probably deserved to do that on his last run and on his two flat runs and he's a grand fun horse. We'll keep him going but he wouldn't want it too heavy. He'll go on yielding to soft."
The County Meath handler quickly doubled up on the day when Drunken Counsel owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, proved a clear winner of the second with claiming rider Luke Dempsey, who is now based with the trainer, leading four from home after a good jump and easily made the rest of the running to prevail.
Gordon Elliott added: " He will be going to the sales and would be better suited in England. He handles any ground and Luke Dempsey gave him a good, confident ride."
Favourite, Hero de Villeneue, trained by Robbie Hennessy, claimed the Al Aasfa Hurdle with jockey Andrew Lynch aboard when making all the running to deny Gordon Elliott a treble with his runner, Tico filling second.
Hennessy said: "On his rating he was a near certainty but while he has been winning chases in England, they weren't top-class races, more cup races.
"Philip Carberry (jockey and rider of the family's Champion Hurdle winner Sublimity) sent him over to us from France but we had to persevere with him as he's had three wind operations, has a bad back and has to have the massage machine every day. He's a crock but we seem to have him right now, thankfully."
The going altered to good/yielding after the third race which saw a very confident ride from Mark Flanagan on Effernock Lad – the claiming rider having quit riding for a period but now rides out for winning trainer Gerry Keane.
The latter said: " We thought he would win a point to point but was backwards last year. He is a well bred horse and we will aim at a handicap next – Mark knows him well and gave him a good ride."
The long distance Maiden Hurdle developed into a duel between the front running pair, Buster Dan Dan and Better Back Bob.
The first named, trained and ridden by Mikey O'Connor, kept on best in the closing stages despite the efforts of the locally trained runner to land the Maiden Hurdle prize.
The winning trainer/rider who travelled from Liscarroll, County Cork, said: "He's tough and honest and is a terrier. He knuckled up the hill and I was always comfortable. He'll be off for a two or three week break and we'll probably come back here or go to Tramore, as he corners well. I've a good strike rate and love it here – they do a great job and the ground is well watered and safe."
Kilkenny trainer Eoin Doyle and rider Mickey Butler, who registered success a fortnight ago at the venue, were again in the winners' enclosure after Fast Exit claimed the Handicap Hurdle, beating favourite, Lucky Pigeon.