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Jessica Harrington basks in Gambling Girl and Jezki success

By Ron McKnight

Jezki, ridden by Tony McCoy, underlined his credentials as a genuine Champion Hurdle contender by romping home in the feature WKD Hurdle for Jessica Harrington on the opening day of the Down Royal Festival.

Trainer Harrington had won the race twice before, including with the high-class Macs Joy.

The high-profile youngster was forced to lead early as no one wanted to go on and set a very slow pace in the early stages.

The result was Jezki making all the running under the champion jockey, but needed shook up after the final flight to maintain the advantage Caid Du Berlais on the run to the line.

The Kildare trainer said: "I'm absolutely delighted to get that out of the way. He did everything he was supposed to do. There was no pace so he had to do his own donkey work and he did it without much effort. It was an absolute sprint down to the last two and he answered every call. He has grown up and he settled very well. I told Tony to ride him as it comes and ride him out with hands and heels. It was his first run of the year and he is bound to improve."

Connections added the Morgiana Hurdle (Punchestown) would be his next target.

In the winners enclosure, McCoy said: "He was a very good novice and he is a very smart horse. It is nice to have a horse to have plans with. It was a good start in a muddling race – I was always happy with him. I have not been here for five years. It's good to get a winner anytime but it is great to win here again."

Ladbrokes left Jezki unchanged at 8/1 for next year's prestigious Champion Hurdle race.

Harrington enjoyed a good day at the Maze having also claimed the supporting feature with Gambling Girl, partnered by Robbie Power. The winner waited mid division as Rova Dove attempted to make all but improved to lead two from home and was clear at the final flight when blundering but galloped on strongly to score by eight lengths.

Harrington said: "I think she could be special. She made a bad mistake and went away again. She went long at the last and when she recovered, she went away from the second. She did a couple of very good pieces of work and she is a big mare so she'll only improve."

The winner is owned by the River Racing Partnership and a syndicate member said the mare was in-foal to Big Bad Bob.

Power said: "She could be very good, she could be anything. She would have won with her head in her chest but for the last. She is as good as any mare I've ridden."

Racing got under way when the Michael Hourigan-trained Doessheeverstop, with Andrew McNamara aboard, supplied a 20/1 shock winner while in the handicap hurdle.

The King of Brega partnered by Robbie Colgan again adopted the successful last time front running tactics to score back-to-back wins.

Ruby Walsh got on the scoreboard aboard Tom Taaffe's Gold Bullet, which beat the Newry-trained Howwouldyouknow, which collided with a doll when Shane Butler made an adventurous move to go up the inside of Davy Russell on Rye Martini two out. The Philip Rothwell-trained Decade Player, with Eddie O'Connell in the saddle, prevailed in a three way battle to beat Protarus and Mad Brian.

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