Doubles all round at Downpatrick
Downpatrick's Sunday meeting produced a day of double for trainers Joseph O'Brien and Colin Bowe, also also jockey Johnny Slevin, one for each trainer.
In-form O'Brien, from Tipperary, scored with Unicorn, ridden by Jody McGarvey in the opening maiden hurdle and he followed up when Mischievous Max, partnered by Johnny Slevin proved a convincing winner of the long distance maiden hurdle, beating odds on favourite Mountain Rock which couldn't catch the winner in the closing stages.
That opening race saw the trio of market principals dominate the running for most of the way. Unicorn seemed content to run third for most until the final flight befoe challenging favourite Iolani and long-time leader Skeaping to score going away.
Jockey McGarvey said: "He did it well after disappointing on his first two runs. He travelled and jumped well and got his head in front. He has been a bit mischievous and Joseph put the cheek-pieces on him today. They seem to have worked."
Mischievous Max made it two in a row for O'Brien and jockey Slevin said: "He's a good, tough horse and he's been very consistent. He jumped very well today and he handled the track very well in a good performance."
The feature was won by Westland Row under an excellent ride by Davy Russell. The former dual champion jockey led before the penultimate hurdle and readily held the challenge of the well supported favourite Andratx which failed to adopt his usual front running tactics.
Davy Condon, assistant trainer to Gordon Elliott, said of their winner: "We were hopeful of a good run but obviously concerned because the trip was a little bit short for him. Davy rode brilliantly, steppingd up going out the last circuit. Obviously the horse ran well around here before, he jumped great and the drying ground definitely helped."
The handicap hurdle resulted in a duel in the closing stages between King Of Aran and Persian Wind. The latter led downhill but despite the pair colliding jumping the final hurdle, jockey Danny Mullins drove the Michael Grassick trained King Of Aran to the front in the closing stages.
The anticipated dominance of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh failed to materialise. Blixit was another disappointment, having been to the fore but fading rapidly prior to the final flight as the Colin Bowe trained Sharlanda, with Sean Flanagan aboard, asserted after the last to win easily. Meath trainer Bowe said: "The clock is against her - she has until September as she is in foal to Ol' Man River. We'll look at the programme and if we can get a little Listed race to get her black type over fences, that is probably how we will do it. We'll definitely fit one more in."
Bowe and jockey Johnny Slevin completed a double when Tranquil Magic managed to reverse placings with the locally trained Better Back Bob - the pair previously 1-2 last month and again Personal Shopper, which attempted to make all, was third behind the duo.
Bowe said: "We'll maybe try and win another handicap but she has won a point-to-point so maybe we will move on to a beginners' chase."
The Edward O'Grady trained Slippery Servant, with Champion points rider Barry O'Neill aboard, claimed the finale. Champion trainer Willie Mullins again supplied the favourite but Special Ted clipped heels with another runner half a mile from home, unseating Patrick Mullins.