Abstraction thrills to end long drought
Abstraction defied a six-year absence from the winner's enclosure to claim the sprint handicap for Banbridge trainer Natalie Lupini at Down Royal yesterday.
Partnered by Shane Foley, the local horse recorded a clear-cut victory after always having been in a prominent lead.
Lupini, who is originally from Milan, said: "He is a horse very close to my heart. Since I bought him, he's been my baby really.
"I'm delighted to see him winning for me, this is special for everyone in the yard. The owners love him. It really is special because he had loads of problems, so it is great to have him back in the winner's enclosure.
"Shane (Foley) was brilliant on him - the best ride I've seen."
Donnacha O'Brien completed a double when he landed the feature listed race Her Majesty's Plate on Downdraft, trained by his brother Joseph.
British runner Altra Vita attempted to make all but Downdraft, fourth for most of the race, challenged at the furlong mark and took the win.
Downdraft readily denied The King, while Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was in last place for most of the race, kept on to claim third spot.
O'Brien said: "He's a beautiful horse to ride, you just throw the reins at him and he goes along at his own pace. Then when you give him a squeeze he is there for you.
"He's an improving horse and I think the step up in trip brought about more improvement. I'll leave it to Joseph (O'Brien), but he can go anywhere with him - he is tactical and relaxes, so you would have a load of options."
Long odds-on favourite Royal County Down and Recall the Show duelled in the two-year-old maiden, with the former - trained by Aidan O'Brien with son Donnacha aboard - prevailing by a nose at the line.
Donnacha said: "He's a little bit of a slow learner, but once he got the hang of things he stuck his head out in front."
The John Murphy-trained Think Big denied hot favourite Millisle in the opener.
However, connections had a lengthy wait before the winner was confirmed with a stewards' enquiry called as Think Big had drifted right in the last 50 yards despite jockey Robbie Colgan's efforts to keep his mount straight.
Murphy's son and assistant trainer George said: "There's no doubt he is a very, very good horse.
"He was just a bit green there when he did hit the front. The best horse won on the day."
Trainer Denis Hogan supplied the first and third in the Magners Handicap, with the winner, Bahwlan, partnered by apprentice Joseph Sheridan, challenging five wide at the furlong marker to relegate the front-running Sweetest Taboo to second, while Gopsies Daughter filled third.
"He did (come home strongly), he jumped alright and sat in behind the leaders and picked up well the very minute I asked him. Denis' (Hogan) horses are flying," said Sheridan afterwards.
Sheridan doubled up when recording a runaway victory aboard Lusis Naturea in the apprentice handicap, supplying trainer Paul Traynor with his first success, with the winner owned by Ballyclare-based Karen McNeilly.
The Aidan Fogarty-trained Next Stop Broadway, with Shane Crosse in the saddle, made most of the running to claim the finale.
The veteran 12-year-old Black Spot On, having attempted to make all, had to settle for a dead heat with Mister Butler in the handicap hurdle at Wexford, maintaining Armagh trainer Ronan McNally's run of success.