Damalisque could make a swift reappearance at next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival after leading home a one-two-three for leading owner JP McManus in the featured Navan Handicap Hurdle on Friday.
A field of 20 runners went to post for the 40,000 euros contest, the main event on a card which was saved and rescheduled after being abandoned due to frost last Saturday.
Having been narrowly beaten when favourite for the similarly competitive Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle at Naas on his latest appearance, the Eddie Harty-trained Damalisque was well fancied to go one better in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Supporters of the 5-1 chance would have been thrilled to see him travelling strongly all the way up the home straight and he never looked in serious danger of being caught after hitting the front – passing the post with seven and a half lengths in hand over Mon Lino.
Harty, who saddled the McManus-owned Kilfenora to win the race last season, said of his latest victor: “He was possibly a bit unlucky in the Brown Lad, where he ran a huge race, and it’s nice to repay the faith by winning the race again for JP.
“He’s entered next week at Leopardstown (William Fry Handicap Hurdle) and he might sneak in now with a penalty for this.
“He’s won well there over two and a half miles and I don’t see why he wouldn’t get three miles at Leopardstown. We’ll see how he comes out of this before making a final decision.
“He’s a nice horse and has had his problems through the years, but he’s come good now.”
Damalisque’s triumph was the highlight of a four-timer for McManus and Walsh, with the pair also striking gold with Thedevilscoachman, Gars De Sceaux and Sir Bob.
Dual winner Thedevilscoachman (3-1) was dropping in class for the Dunmoe Rated Novice Hurdle, having finished fifth behind star novice Appreciate It in a Grade One at Leopardstown last month, and made the most of the opportunity to with a decisive three-length verdict.
“I was a bit disappointed with him at Leopardstown, but Mark said he was very green,” said Meade.
“I don’t know where we will go next or what we will do, but he’s a nice horse.
“He’s very laidback. He’s only just lobbing along until you want him and then he picks up.”
Odds-on backers were made to sweat before collecting their winnings after division two of the Graigs Lane Maiden Hurdle, with Fair Frontieres making Gordon Elliott’s 8-15 favourite Gars De Sceaux pull out all the stops.
“Mark said he’s a grand horse. He missed the last two hurdles and landed on all fours,” said Elliott.
“He’s a big, raw horse and one for next year. I’d say he won’t be a horse until he jumps a fence.”
An excellent day for the McManus-Walsh combination was completed by Robert Tyner’s Sir Bob (14-1) in the Ardmulchan Handicap Hurdle.
Elliott was less happy after division one of the maiden hurdle, with his 10-11 shot Folcano controversially beaten a nose by John Joseph Murphy’s Brazos (11-2).
The stewards called an inquiry shortly after the pair had passed the line after it became clear the winner had drifted right after the final flight – but to the surprise of many, the placings remained unaltered.
Elliott added: “I thought he (Folcano) should have got it. It’s disappointing for the owners. I’ll have to discuss it (an appeal) with them, but we’ll probably take it on the chin.
“The consistency of these stewards inquiries is barbaric. I don’t know what you have to do to get a race.”
The Cullentra handler went on to land the bumper with the impressive newcomer Three Stripe Life (4-5 favourite), ridden by Jamie Codd.
Elliott said: “We think a good bit of him and he’s done everything right at home.
“He could be a Cheltenham bumper horse – I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.”
Mr Hendricks (10-1) could be targeted at the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter after landing the Wilkinstown Beginners Chase for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power.
Harrington said: “He was very good. He’s been crying out for three miles and he has to go left-handed.
“He’s an enormous horse – over 17 hands. He jumped well and Robert is delighted with him.
“A long time ago I said the Midlands National could be a race for him, so he could easily end up there.
“I have a good record in the race with novices. Miss Orchestra (1998) and Intelligent (2003) won it and Badgerlaw was second.”