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O'Brien is praised after success on Downpatrick's return


Point made: Walkers Point ridden by Noel McParlan (orange silks with white star) went on to win the Randox Health (C&G) Maiden Hurdle at Downpatrick

Point made: Walkers Point ridden by Noel McParlan (orange silks with white star) went on to win the Randox Health (C&G) Maiden Hurdle at Downpatrick

Point made: Walkers Point ridden by Noel McParlan (orange silks with white star) went on to win the Randox Health (C&G) Maiden Hurdle at Downpatrick

Trainer Joseph O'Brien sent out Etincelle Lioterie to land the opener on the resumption of racing at Downpatrick.

The winner, under an enterprising ride from JJ Slevin, made all and benefited from his slick jumping to justify favouritism.

Slevin said: "It was a nice bit of placing by Joseph. I was very happy with her today - we put cheek pieces on and were always wanting to make plenty of use of her in the race.

"She was a bit slow over the hurdles last time (Killarney) - we thought they would help. She got into a nice rhythm and handled the track well."

Silverbridge-based father and son duo Sean and Noel McParlan supplied a local victory, a 50/1 shock winner, with Walkers Point which last won on the track in 2015.

The geldings' maiden hurdle produced a four-way finish after the local horse had led in the closing stages with favourite Ya Ya Boy coming from a long way back to be denied a half-length. Felino De Bersy was just a neck behind in third with Jack Hackett another neck in arrears in fourth.

McParlan snr said: "It was a surprise. The day he ran in Wexford he looked like he was going to win by 20 lengths and he just got collared. Coming down the hill (today) the boys were all saying, 'He'll stop before he hits the line'.

"He pulled it out there and I'm delighted for the owner. He travels so well and finds nothing, but he kept at it and we were lucky enough today. We were delighted to get that over us.

"We'll talk about that (future plans) later."

The Ballyclare-trained Will You Walk With Me (40s to 10/1) attempted to make all in the first division of the Toals Hurdle before finishing fourth but it was another local runner, James Boru (16s to 13/2), which was produced in the closing stages to prevail.

A dual point-to-point winner for Draperstown handler Noel Kelly, who won the same race last year, and partnered by Conor Orr, he was held up for most of the race before asserting on the run-in.

Kelly said: "We changed tactics today. I've a new assistant, Danny Fitzsimmons, and he said to drop him in and let him pass horses and it worked. The last few times he got there too early. I always thought there was more to come after he won his points. He just has a wee bit of attitude."

Insane Bolt and favourite Kilmurray (7/2-2/1) dominated the finish of the handicap hurdle, sponsored by Crumlin-based Randox - sponsor of the Aintree Grand National.

The Gordon Elliott-trained Insane Bolt saw Davy Russell to good advantage. The rivals jumped the final flight together and after a hard-fought battle - and stewards' enquiry - Insane Bolt was confirmed the winner.

The locally-trained So Near So Farhh ran on strongly from a long way back to finish a close third.

Elliott and former champion jockey Russell quickly doubled up in the long-distance hurdle when first-time blinkers saw Soldier's Hill, owned by the stable's sponsor the Foran family, prove a very easy winner.

The winner ran a close fifth prior to leading before the final flight and going clear.

Russell said: "He was a course winner here which is a big plus. He had plenty of experience and put it to good use. Round here you need to be on the bridle and the blinkers definitely helped."

The Elliott and Russell partnership completed a hat-trick on the day when British import Give Him Time opened his account over hurdles in the second division of the Toals Hurdle.

The winner led at the last where favourite Miraculum made a mistake and the locally-trained I'm On A Snap, which had attempted to make all, faded to finish third.

Assistant trainer Ian Amond said: "Gordon owns him so he will be for sale. He'll make a nice dual purpose horse during the summer for someone."

Russell added: "Gordon filled me with confidence and told me he had turned a corner at home and was in great nick."

Elliott, leading trainer at the venue, consolidated his status when Curlew Hill - with champion amateur Jamie Codd aboard - made a winning debut in the bumper to provide a four-timer for the trainer and ensure a double for the trainer's sponsor, the Forans.

Belfast Telegraph