Hes A Hardy Bloke provided Noel Meade with a winner on his 70th birthday with victory in the opening race at Cork on Saturday.
The Tu Va handler has established himself as one of the great Irish National Hunt trainers of the modern era since saddling his first winner some 50 years ago – and has won the Irish trainers’ title on multiple occasions.
Meade’s many Grade One winners include Harchibald, Go Native, Pandorama and Road To Riches.
Carrying the colours of six-times Cheltenham Festival-winning mare Quevega, Hes A Hardy Bloke was the 11-8 favourite for the GAIN Rated Novice Hurdle – and was not hard pressed to beat Takarengo by four lengths in the hands of Sean Flanagan.
The jockey said: “Happy days – it’s nice to get one for the birthday boy!
“The have gone a really nice gallop in the ground. He is a horse we thought had a very high cruising speed, but he has got through the ground quite well and has done it easily.”
The Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame ran out a wide-margin winner of the CorkRacecourse.ie Maiden Hurdle.
A 250,000 euros purchase two months ago after impressing on his sole start in the point-to-point field, the grey looked an exciting recruit judged on this 21-length demolition job under Rachael Blackmore.
“He is a real chaser – he is a good, genuine type of horse who loves jumping and should have a nice future over fences,” said Morris.
“He wouldn’t show you a whole lot at home. We’ll now talk to Robcour (owner Brian Acheson) and see what they want to do.”
Willie Mullins continued his fantastic run of form, with the champion trainer’s nephew Danny Mullins steering Koshari to glory in the GAIN Handicap Hurdle.
The 4-1 shot defied a lengthy absence of 875 days to score by three and a half lengths from Fairyhill Run.
“It was nice to get it and it’s a proper training performance from Willie to have him back here in that shape after a long lay-off,” said the winning rider.
“He has done well physically from his break, did it well today and hopefully he can pick up a few more races.”
Velvet Elvis was an 11-8 winner of the Happy New Year From All At Cork Maiden Hurdle for Tom Gibney and Darragh O’Keeffe, before Robert Tyner and Phillip Enright combined to land the Thanks To All The Frontline Workers Beginners Chase with even-money shot Exit To The West.
Enright said: “She was entitled to do that on her form – she jumps and she stays and is proven on her two chase runs.
“She didn’t really do any more than you’d expect with the type of race it was.”
Robert Widger is eyeing high-profile races at Leopardstown and Cheltenham for Treacysenniscorthy after claiming top honours in the GAIN Handicap Chase, with Kevin Brouder the winning rider.
Widger said: “He’s racing off a lower mark than his hurdles rating and probably a lot of those horses today were exposed, so off his hurdles mark you’d have given him a chance.
“The Leopardstown Chase is one aim and there’s a Grand National trial at Naas over three miles and four furlongs in March. We’ll aim him for Leopardstown and if the ground is OK he’ll go for that.
“We half-thought he might be entitled to a little squeak in something like the Kim Muir at Cheltenham – three miles and two furlongs on better ground would suit him.”
Dot Love’s Betty Zane was a surprise 25-1 winner of the concluding bumper.