Birchdale makes it a day to remember for Mark McDonagh

Mark McDonagh claimed a memorable first winner over fences as he steered Birchdale to victory in the Bulmers Secret Orchard Leopardstown Handicap Chase at Leopardstown.

The 7lb claimer teamed up with trainer Enda Bolger and owner JP McManus to land the €73,750 first prize with Birchdale, who had not got his head in front since landing a Grade Two hurdle for Nicky Henderson back in January 2019.

There was clearly plenty of confidence behind the eight-year-old as he was sent off the 9-2 favourite, with Bolger’s recruit locked in battle with another McManus runner in Winter Escape jumping the last.

Birchdale found plenty on the run to the line, easily holding the late finish of Foxy Jacks by a length and a quarter, with McDonagh punching the air in delight as he passed the post.

McDonagh told RTE: “It’s a dream to ride in these colours. It’s my first ride in them, so thanks to Enda, Mr (Frank) Berry (owner’s racing manager), Mr McManus and my agent Garry Cribbin.

“I’m studying Business in UL (University of Limerick) and I’m on work experience at the moment at Joseph O’Brien’s, doing a bit of office work too, and it’s great to be able to do both things.”

Bolger added: “I thought he got a great ride from young Mark, I’ve known him for a long time as he used to come in a ride out for us.

“It all came together today and 9st 7lb was a help. It was Mr Berry’s idea to use him, it’s getting harder to get fellas to do the weight. Mark is riding well and it was an easy decision. He was outstanding on him.

“This was kind of the plan and it’s a prestigious race to win.”

Birchdale is 10-1 with Coral for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Party Central could head to Cheltenham
Party Central could head to Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

Party Central led home a one-two for Gordon Elliott in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle.

Sent off the 7-4 favourite, Party Central was covered up early on by Davy Russell before he started to line up her challenge with two to jump in the extended two-mile-one-furlong contest.

Russell pushed on to assume the lead from pacesetter Minx Tiara at the final flight with Party Central looking set for a wide-margin victory, only to start to pull herself up a little in front, allowing stablemate Say Goodbye to close to a length and three-quarters in second.

Elliott said: “I’d say she’s a black-type mare to be fair. We had her in a black-type race last week but I thought, with the mark she had, she was too well handicapped to run her in it.

“We said we’d keep her for this and we could always get black type somewhere else down the road. She has plenty of it already.

“Davy gave her a beautiful ride and when she got there she just pulled up, she had done enough. She’s a nice mare.

“Noel and Valerie (Moran, owners) like to have a few broodmares, so we’ll try to make her into a broodmare.

“They’ll be going to Cheltenham for the week so if they’d like to run her, she’ll be on the lorry.”

Call Me Lyreen jumps the last
Call Me Lyreen jumps the last (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott and Russell doubled up with Call My Lyreen in the Liffey Handicap Hurdle, with the County Meath handler again taking the first two places.

The two-mile heat was run at a furious pace but it was 20-1 shot Call My Lyreen who delivered a final finishing flourish to outpoint Magic Tricks by a length and a quarter, with Autumn Evening back in third.

Elliott added: “Davy gave him a good ride. We said we’d ride him a bit cold today, creep away, and that’s exactly what Davy did. There is only one winning post.

“Shane Fitzgerald gave my other horse a lovely ride as well to finish second but unfortunately he bumped into one.

“The horses are running well, that’s our third winner of the weekend and most of the rest of them have been placed so we’re very happy with the way they’ve been running.”

Lily Du Berlais (centre, green cap and silks)  just edged it in a photo
Lily Du Berlais (centre, green cap and silks) just edged it in a photo (Niall Carson/PA)

Lily Du Berlais grabbed Grade Two glory in the final stride of the Coolmore NH Sires Santiago Irish EBF Mares INH Flat Race, the final event of the Dublin Racing Festival.

She had plenty of horses in front of her turning for home, with favourite Pink In The Park seemingly poised to throw down her winning challenge, edging in front in the final furlong.

However, her stride began to shorten in sight of the line and she was swamped from behind, with Lily Du Berlais and Battling Bessie to separate them.

Lily Du Berlais, trained by Stuart Crawford and ridden by his brother Ben, was eventually called the nose winner at odds of 40-1.

Crawford said: “I thought she was a good mare when I brought her to Perth and Brian Hughes got off her that day and said ‘that’s as good a horse as I’ve ridden for you’.

“He rang me this morning and said ‘don’t forget what I told you back then’. He said ‘tell Ben to ride her cold and be as cool as he likes, I don’t care how good the race is’.

“She was tough on the day. I was thinking to myself my brother had been getting plenty of instructions from all directions and I said ‘you’re not doing what you were told there, you are too cool’.

“It worked out and it was great. To get a winner for (owners) Simon (Munir) and Isaac (Souede) and Anthony (Bromley, racing manager) is great. They are big supporters of racing and big supporters of me.

“We’ll take it today and make plans after that. She’s an extremely exciting mare to be going jumping with and she got the job done there today, so we’ll enjoy that.”

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