High-class hurdler Saint Sam made a successful start to his career over fences in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse.
The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old was placed in a number of top juvenile races last season, including a runner-up finish in the Boodles at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Making his chasing debut and first competitive appearance since May, Saint Sam was the 11-10 favourite in the hands of Paul Townend and readily accounted for Thedevilscoachman by nine lengths.
Townend said: “He’s a good old spin. He ran into fair opposition last year over hurdles and gave a lot of weight away in the Fred Winter (Boodles).
“He has jumped well at home and we let him at it there. They didn’t leave me alone or anything, but he’s won nicely in the end.
“He had a good leap at the last and it was only then that he was getting going.
“He might go a bit higher over fences the way he jumps. He’s going to have stiffer tasks ahead of him but I think, on what he showed there, he can go to the next grade.”
Gavin Cromwell and Luke Dempsey combined to land the opening Fairyhouse January Jumps Hurdle with 4-1 shot White Pepper before Red As Rust caused a 25-1 upset in the Fairyhouse Mares Maiden Hurdle.
Nigel Slevin’s charge held a narrow lead when the challenging Brooklynn Glory fell at the last, allowing her to coast home by 12 lengths from 6-4 favourite Banntown Girl under Conor Orr.
“She ran a really good race here last year in a bumper, but we kind of over-raced her then and ran her back too quick,” said Slevin.
“We went jumping this season, she had a problem in Listowel but came back and ran well in Thurles. She was fourth there and the form has worked out, so we were hopeful today.
“She’s a grand mare. I don’t know where we go now, we’ll plod along with her and see.”
Gordon Elliott’s Wall Of Fame was a 6-1 winner of the Fairyhouse Easter Early Bird Handicap Hurdle under Jordan Gainford, while Farceur Du Large landed odds of 13-2 for Noel Meade and Eoin Walsh in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase.
The Mullins-trained Grivei (5-6) was a warm order for the concluding Racing Again January 15th Flat Race, but was denied close home by Liam Burke’s 18-1 shot Heliko Conti and Finny Maguire.
Burke said: “He got murdered everywhere and had nowhere to go. He’s a fair horse to pick up the way he did.
“He ran well in Gowran in a winners-of-one hurdle when he was only a short-head behind Willie’s horse (Dark Voyager) who is rated 130. We were too far out of it then, if we had rode a different race we might have frightened them.
“Obviously we’ll keep him a novice (hurdler) for next year. We’ll run in a winner’s race somewhere or else run in a good hurdle somewhere.
“He’s a decent horse, he has a great attitude and nothing fazes him. When you go for him he finds, I don’t often have one like that.”