Tag Archive for: Listowel

Townend to see specialist after suffering dislocated shoulder

Paul Townend is facing an indefinite spell on the sidelines after dislocating his shoulder in a fall at Listowel on Wednesday.

The reigning champion jockey – who returned to action in July having suffered a foot injury at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting that saw him fitted with a special boot in riding at Punchestown – came to grief two out aboard the Jessica Harrington-trained Port Stanley.

His retained trainer Willie Mullins is hoping for a swift return to action, but Townend will seek specialist advice next week.

He said: “Paul has a dislocated shoulder. I don’t know how long it is going to take and Paul doesn’t know either. Sometimes you make a quick recovery, that’s what we’re hoping, other times it takes a bit longer.

“He is going to see a specialist early next week.”

Townend was booked to ride Dysart Diamond and Sapphire Lady for Mullins at Listowel on Friday and missed a smart winner in the first-named mare.

Sean Flanagan duly stepped in to take his first ride for the Closutton handler in the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle, with Dysart Diamond winning by a length and quarter.

Mullins added: “I asked David Casey who was the best available, he said Sean, so I took him and it was a nice spare.

“He took the outside route when things didn’t go well at the start and it seemed to suit her and she jumped beautifully for him.”

Townend misses Listowel after fall earlier in the week

Paul Townend remains on the sidelines after suffering a shoulder injury in a fall at Listowel earlier in the week.

The reigning champion jockey – who returned to action in July having suffered a foot injury at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting that saw him fitted with a special boot in riding at Punchestown – came to grief two out aboard the Jessica Harrington-trained Port Stanley on Wednesday.

With Flat action taking place on day five of the Harvest Festival, Townend was not in action on Thursday and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s senior medical officer Jennifer Pugh reported he would not ride on Friday.

Giving an update on the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Twitter feed, she said: “Paul suffered a shoulder injury at Listowel on Wednesday and is awaiting further assessment.”

Townend was booked to ride Dysart Diamond and Sapphire Lady for retained trainer Willie Mullins on Friday.

Assemble fits the bill for O’Brien and Fitzgerald in Kerry National

Joseph O’Brien’s Assemble was a comfortable winner of the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel.

Partnered by 7lb claimer Shane Fitzgerald, the seven-year-old provided his pilot with the biggest victory of his career when taking the €150,000 contest by two and three-quarter lengths from Brahma Bull, in a race that had its fair share of drama.

Starting at 9-1, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding travelled neatly behind the leaders, avoiding any trouble and throwing down a challenge with two fences remaining, catching long-time leader Annamix and holding off the rallying runner-up.

Assistant trainer Brendan Powell said: “On his form at Cheltenham this year when he was fifth in the Paddy Power (Plate), he’d a good chance. He’s always threatened he’d stay well.

“Shane seems to get a lovely tune out of him. He’s a horse that has fallen three times but he’s a great horseman and got him jumping.

“He’d a nice position the whole way. I thought turning all you’ve got to do is jump the last two and he’d win because he’d keep galloping.

“The ground probably suited him as well.”

He added: “Now that his jumping has got together hopefully he’s got a good future. He could be an Irish National, horse but that’s for Joseph and Mr (Michael) O’Leary to decide.”

Fitzgerald added: “It’ll probably take a good while to sink in, but it’s unreal. It’s an absolutely massive thanks to Joseph O’Brien and to Gigginstown – to everyone in the yard, and all the staff that put in all the work to get to days like this that we’re all very grateful for.

“It’s some thrill, and just to be on a horse of that calibre is just unreal. It’s hard to describe, the feeling is just unreal.

“He had a couple of F’s on his card, but I thought I got a great spin off him in the Galway Plate. He finished seventh and ran an absolute cracker. We thought the flatter track here would suit him.

“I was happy everywhere I went today. When I turned for home and gave him a squeeze and he picked up, I knew I was full of horse going to the second-last. I knew if something came to me, he was going to battle hard if need be.

“It’s fairytale stuff. You can’t really describe it.”

Visualisation lands Listed prize at Listowel

Visualisation led his rivals a merry dance in the Edmund & Josie Whelan Memorial Listowel Stakes.

Winner of the valuable “Habitat” Handicap at the Curragh earlier in the summer before claiming a second place at Royal Ascot, Joseph O’Brien’s charge was last seen finishing down the field in the Group Three Royal Whip Stakes.

Dropping down to Listed class in the feature event on day three of the Harvest Festival, Visualisation was a well supported 7-2 chance and ultimately won with plenty in hand.

Drawn widest of all in stall 11, the three-year-old was rousted away from the stalls by Declan McDonogh, enabling him to move across the field and grab the lead.

The chasing pack attempted to close the gap from the home turn, but Visualisation never looked in any real danger of being caught and passed the post with two and a half lengths in hand over Geometrical, with Casanova close up in third.

O’Brien’s assistant, Brendan Powell, said: “Declan was brilliant on him. He got him out from the gates and to the front and he has dictated lovely the whole way. He has given him a breather on the bend and then kicked.

“I think he is improving all the time and obviously the softer the ground, the better. He stays well, is very genuine and has won that well in the end.

“That’s his best win and the best he has been. Where Joseph will go now I don’t know, but he’ll stay further.”

It proved to be a profitable afternoon for favourite backers, with the market leaders of the first four races all striking gold.

Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan teamed up to land the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden with even-money shot Aikhal, before Jarlath Fahey’s Pimstrel (7-2) strode clear of her rivals under Leigh Roche in division one of the Rose Hotel Handicap.

Division two went the way of Eoin McCarthy’s Drombeg Duke (100-30), ridden by Gavin Ryan, while Dermot Weld’s Mutasarref looks ready for a step up in grade judged on his ready success in the Jet & Peggy O’Carroll Memorial (C & G) Maiden in the hands of Colin Keane.

Kris Weld, assistant to his father, said: “After his last run he looked like he should go and win today and thankfully he has. Hopefully we will go and look for a handicap for him next.

“His dam (Mulkeyya) loved an ease in the ground and we anticipated he would handle it well.”

Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley continued their hot streak by landing the last two races of the day, with Tut Tut (5-2) getting back on the winning trail in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Premier Nursery and Laelaps obliging in the Listowel Arms Hotel Handicap at 15-2.

Farclas spearheads three-pronged Kerry National challenge for Gigginstown

Farclas makes his first appearance since contesting the Grand National at Aintree in the spring as one of three runners for Gigginstown House Stud in Wednesday’s Guinness Kerry National.

The Gordon Elliott-trained grey contested a number of high-profile handicap chases last season – finishing third and fourth in two major events at Leopardstown before filling the runner-up spot at the Cheltenham Festival.

Farclas rounded off his campaign by finishing fifth behind the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Minella Times in the world’s most famous steeplechase and connections are looking forward to his seasonal debut in the feature event of Listowel’s Harvest Festival.

“He’s a very nice young horse who is hopefully progressing the right way,” said Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary.

“It’s his first run of the year, but hopefully he’ll do himself justice.”

The familiar maroon and white colours will also be carried by Elliott’s Conflated and the Assemble from Joseph O’Brien’s yard.

Conflated was a high-class novice chaser last season and is expected to strip fitter for a recent comeback run on the Flat at Gowran Park.

O’Leary added: “Conflated will be sharper for his run. He’s a nice young horse – hopefully he’s a Graded horse in a handicap. The trip might just stretch him a bit.

“Assemble was nearly a good young horse last year and hopefully he’s one to look forward to.

“They all have a squeak and hopefully one of them gets lucky.”

Trainer John Ryan faces a nervous wait to discover whether Fairyhill Run will make the cut for the €150,000 contest.

The six-year-old has been towards the head of ante-post lists or some time following a profitable summer campaign – but much to the dismay of connections, she was only first reserve after the declaration stage.

Ryan, who is also responsible for the third reserve in Waitnsee, said: “It’s very frustrating knowing that a rating of 131 got in last year, given Fairyhill Run is rated 137 and Waitnsee is 135.

“We’ve got until 11am on Wednesday, so fingers crossed.

“Hopefully the two of them get in as they are absolutely flying – they couldn’t be going better.”

Aramax (Elliott) and Darasso (O’Brien) are two of seven runners for leading owner JP McManus, while champion trainer Willie Mullins has declared four for Rich and Susannah Ricci in Brahma Bull, Annamix, Koshari and second reserve Karl De Grosse.

Casanova and Saltonstall go for Listed gold at Listowel

Adrian McGuinness has two shots at success in the Listed Edmund & Josie Whelan Memorial Listowel Stakes on Tuesday.

The Lusk-based trainer is responsible for two of the 11 runners in the one-mile-one-furlong contest, with both Casanova and Saltonstall holding entries.

Casanova comes into the race in fine form having prevailed on his last two outings, winning at Galway before following up at Punchestown last time out.

The five-year-old’s rating has risen from 79 to 99 over the span of those two outings and he will now dip his toe in black-type company for the first time.

“Casanova is improving, he’s just getting stronger and he’s improving no end,” McGuinness said of the Frankel gelding.

“He’s gone up to 99 and with the form he’s in he’s definitely worth a shot.

“He’s a very well-bred horse and he’s in great form, so I’m looking forward to a big run in stakes company from him.”

Stablemate Saltonstall will also take his chance at Listowel, his 12th run in a season that has seen him alternate between stakes contests and big-field handicaps.

His last performance was a 10th-placed run in the Northfields Handicap, where he started at 22-1 and faced 23 rivals over a trip of a mile and two furlongs.

The chestnut already has Listed form, having won the Glencairn Stakes over a mile on heavy ground last season.

“Saltonstall’s record speaks for itself, he won a Listed race for us last year and he’s been a superb horse,” McGuinness said.

“He ran a very, very good race for us the last day at the Curragh, we were very happy with his run over a mile and two (furlongs).

“He’s back to his favourite trip with a little bit of cut in the ground, he seems to be really solid and he’s the highest-rated horse in the race, so we’re looking forward to a big run from him as well.”

Autumn Evening another winner for in-form Harrington team

Autumn Evening ran out a ready winner of the valuable Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle at Listowel for the red-hot Jessica Harrington.

Harrington has been carrying all before her on the Flat in recent weeks, including an incredible four-timer over Irish Champions Weekend, but she once again showed her skills in the National Hunt sphere.

There appeared to be plenty in with a chance just before the turn for home, with almost six in a line.

However, the picture soon changed as Willie Mullins’ Dark Voyager went around the outside and took up the running.

The only one who could go with him was Autumn Evening (14-1) and despite only holding a narrow advantage on jumping the last, Sean O’Keeffe’s mount powered up the run in to eventually win by four lengths.

The race was run in memory of former photographer Liam Healy from Listowel who died in 2016.

“We gave him a nice good break after February and he strengthened up. He had a run back at Tramore and was meant to run at Gowran two weeks ago, but didn’t run as the ground was too quick for him,” said assistant trainer Kate Harrington.

“We hoped we had him fit enough for today, but he has been really good and two miles will probably be his minimum. We could step him back up to two and a half throughout the season and I think he’ll be competitive in those handicaps.

“We’ll also go back and try to win one on the Flat before the season is out. It is great for Joe (O’Flaherty) who is a great supporter and it is also lovely to win the Liam Healy Memorial Race.

“We have very fond memories of him, so it is a privilege to win his race.”

Earlier Gordon Elliott took the first two races with nice prospects in Party Central (4-7 favourite) and I A Connect (evens favourite).

Davy Russell rode the first of them but gave up his remaining rides due to an upset stomach.

Elliot said of Party Central: “It was a nice performance. Davy said there is plenty of improvement in her and she’ll come on a lot from it. We knew she was just ready to start off.

“Looking at her today, she enjoyed that two and a half miles but she could come back too.

“She is having a proper blow but is highly-strung and I wouldn’t have galloped her much at home. I want to keep the lid on her and she might now go for a Graded novice hurdle at Down Royal in November.”

Easy Game for Mullins and Townend at Listowel

Easy Game took the measure of Ballyoisin to win the feature Kerry Group Chase and complete a treble for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins on day one of Listowel’s Harvest Festival.

The reigning champion jockey and trainer struck again as Grade Two-winning hurdler and chaser Easy Game went one better than his fine second behind stablemate Royal Rendezvous in the Galway Plate.

Just a select field of three went to post, and that was reduced to two with a circuit to run when The Storyteller – always off the pace being set – was pulled up.

Easy Game and even-money favourite Ballyoisin continued their tussle, with the latter mostly just in front until tackled and headed between the last two fences.

Townend then got the better jump at the last en route to victory by three and a half lengths at 6-4.

Mullins said: “It is Nick’s (Peacock, owner) first race meeting since Cheltenham 2020, and he is delighted to be back.

“The horse might be improving a bit, and we will look at the Grade Two chase in Gowran – although Royal Rendezvous goes there, and we might keep the two of them apart.

“We never thought he was a three-miler, but he ran a cracker in the Galway Plate. Maybe he deserves an entry in the Down Royal Champion Chase (over three miles) – it might be a little beyond him, but he has handled the ground up there. It can get very lively, so it is a possibility.”

French Made was a Grade Two winner as a juvenile hurdler back in 2019 – and on her second start after a break of more than two years, she returned to winning ways to kickstart the Mullins-Townend treble.

Townend had to get to work on the six-year-old quite a long way from home, but she made good ground to collar long-time leader and eventual runner-up Say Goodbye at the last to win as the 13-8 favourite in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle.

Paul Townend and Willie Mullins with French Made
Paul Townend and Willie Mullins with French Made (Thomas Weekes/PA)

Mullins said: “She needed the run in Galway (in a big handicap at the end of July) and was improving at home all the time.

“I think it was a very fast race and it fell into her lap a little bit. The ones in front were keen to get on with it, and Paul sat out and waited for the race to come back to him – which it did eventually.

“I’d have no trouble going out in trip with her, because she looked caught for toe over the first couple of hurdles.

“She will go back up in grade at some stage and we’ll try to win what we can over the winter for her owner Sean McManus, who couldn’t be here today.

“I think she’ll stay over hurdles this season, she is six now but I hadn’t planned on going chasing.”

But while Mullins was delighted with French Made, trainer Liam O’Brien was left aghast by the decision of the stewards to fine him €2,000 and suspend jockey Ambrose McCurtin for 14 days over the running and riding of third-placed No Memory, who was beaten five and three-quarter lengths, and who is prevented from running for 42 days.

Describing the verdict as “scandalous”, O’Brien said: “We were beaten by a Grade Two winner. She (No Memory) is rated 115, she should have been getting a stone and a half from her (French Made) and finishes third.

“The reason she finished third was because she was out the back and they went too quick and the race collapsed. She obviously hadn’t the pace of the winner who was placed in a Grade One and was a Grade Two winner and she finishes third.

“It was her best run ever and I’ll have to appeal.”

Davy Russell is back among the winners
Davy Russell is back among the winners (Niall Carson/PA)

Davy Russell recorded his second victory since returning this week from 11 months out with a neck injury, when 14-1 shot Coach Carter beat his better-fancied Gordon Elliott-trained stablemate Gevrey – who made a telling mistake at the last before finishing runner-up in an eventful Strings & Things Rated Novice Chase.

Russell did well to stay on board when Coach Carter clipped heels with leader Poseidon in front of the stands first time round.

Bell Ex One was a decisive three-length winner of the opening Kerry Group 3YO Hurdle, turning round the form of his jumps debut.

Ray Cody’s gelding was second to Realist at Down Royal last month – but with a pull in the weights, he had that rival back in second this time, stretching clear under 7lb claimer Jack Foley to win at 4-1.

Cody said: “His jumping was better today, and he was in front way too soon, but I told Jack to be good and positive on him.

“When he got to the front he was wicked green – but he has an engine, and I think this lad will go a good bit.

“It was a good performance today and when his jumping becomes slicker, there is plenty to come.”

Kilashee was a runaway winner in division one of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle, taking in-form trainer John Ryan’s tally to 30 this season.

The 9-2 shot built up a huge lead mid-race under 7lb claimer Shane Fitzgerald – and although Outlier narrowed the gap to under three lengths at the line, the result was never in doubt.

Ryan, who recorded the first four-timer of his career at Sligo four days ago, said: “I thought Shane went too quick, so my heart was in my mouth, but I’m very sweet on her.

“She is a half-sister to Kilcarry Bridge, who I won over €300,000 with.

“This is a right filly – and a lot of credit has to go to (vet) Tom O’Brien, because she got a bad cut on a hind leg and her tendon sheaths had to be flushed.

“He saved her on two occasions and he did a brilliant job with her wind a few years ago. A lot of those fellows don’t get enough credit – because without him, I wouldn’t have her.”

Captain Kangaroo, who beat subsequent Grade One winner Kilcruit on his debut in a bumper in March last year, also struck for Townend and Mullins – at the ninth attempt over jumps, as the 6-5 favourite in the Dairygold Maiden Hurdle.

Darasso on a roll as Samcro fails to fire at Listowel

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro failed to fire as Darasso continued his resurgence with a clear-cut victory in the John J. Galvin Chase at Listowel.

A winner at Graded level over hurdles and fences, Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso endured a largely disappointing campaign last season.

However, having bounced back to winning ways in a conditions hurdle at Killarney last month, the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old followed up back over the larger obstacles in County Kerry.

Ridden by Luke Dempsey, the 11-2 shot jumped well on the whole – and a slight mistake at the final obstacle was not enough to stop him scoring comfortably by seven lengths from Snow Falcon.

Dempsey said: “He is a good horse and did it nicely.

“I was eager enough to get ahead of (leader) Abbey Magic, who was jumping right – and the loose horse wasn’t helping me either.

“He was long at the last, but came up for me – and in fairness once he had hit the front he did it well in the end.

“It was a good performance.”

Denise Foster’s Samcro was the 11-4 favourite, after winning a Grade Three chase at Killarney four weeks ago, but was ultimately well beaten in sixth place.

Favourite backers were rewarded in the preceding Bryan MacMahon Handicap Hurdle, with Mark Fahey’s 100-30 chance Place Des Vosges landing the 21,000 euro feature by eight lengths in the hands of Mark Bolger.

Fahey said: “It was her first time over three miles, and you don’t know unless you try it. Mark gave her a great ride.

“I’ve had her a year and a half, and the only time she finished out of the money was when she fell one day at Fairyhouse.

“She is very consistent. It is a nice pot to win, and I’m delighted for her owners Liam and Carol Rooney, who are part of the syndicate. It is nice for them to come down here today and lead her in.

“There is a two-mile handicap for her at the Derby weekend, and she might go there.”

David Christie has next year’s Grand National meeting at Aintree on his radar for Winged Leader, following the odds-on favourite’s four-and-a-quarter-length triumph in the Join The Listowel Races Supporters Club Hunters Chase under Barry O’Neill.

Christie said: “He is a fine horse, and we were all set to go to Stratford with him, but he got injured on the walker and cut his leg and bruised himself. I thought that would be it, so we’ve had a job getting him back to here.

“He is going out on the grass this week, and next season I think I’ll aim him at Aintree (Foxhunters’ Chase). Aintree takes a horse that stays, but has the gallop to go two and a half miles.

“He goes on any ground, is only seven and is by Winged Love – and they are late developers, so you’d be hoping there is more to come.”

Owners to return to Irish racecourses from Monday

Owners are to make a welcome return to Irish racecourses on Monday following last week’s announcement by the Irish Government that up to 200 people can attend outdoor events from June 7.

Gowran Park and Listowel will open their gates to two owners per runner for what will be the first time since September that they will be allowed back on Irish racecourses.

Designated areas for owners to meet their trainers and jockeys have been established on each track, while winning owners will be permitted to enter the parade ring after a race to greet their horse.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “We have said all along that getting owners back on the racecourse has been a priority and it is great that it is happening from Bank Holiday Monday at Gowran Park and Listowel.

“Owners have stood by the industry during a very difficult period and their return on track paves the way for greater opening up of race meetings to racing fans in the coming months. Horse Racing Ireland’s Ownership team will be in contact with all owners in advance of Monday with full details.

“Obviously, the overall experience for the time being will be an outdoor one, and to ensure that everybody can stay safe, there will be a number of requirements for owners, including registration in advance and arrival through the Health Screening Check-In Area.”

Cabaret Queen holds on for Kerry National honours

Two mares fought out a thrilling finish to the Guinness Kerry National, with Cabaret Queen just holding off the late thrust of Moyhenna.

The Willie Mullins-trained Cabaret Queen, winner of the Munster National last season for her enthusiastic bunch of owners, made just about every yard of the running.

Cabaret Queen had burned off most of her rivals by the second last, but she had been jumping out to her right at most fences and did so again in the straight.

When the 6-1 shot also went right at the last, JJ Slevin, a late replacement for Donagh Meyler, sensed his opportunity against the rail and the Denis Hogan-trained Moyhenna began to gain with every stride.

The pair crossed the line together and there was an agonising wait before judge Jennifer Walsh called the result.

The 11-2 favourite Doctor Duffy was back in third with The West’s Awake, who travelled well for a long way, back in fourth.

“She was so brave and Paul was so brave. He did what he set out to do,” said Mullins.

“She jumped out of her skin and I don’t think she missed a fence. She got half-lengths and lengths where it mattered.

“Paul said she hadn’t one iota left. It was a last-gasp win and being so brave it would have been hard to lose it, but it’s tough on the runner-up too, who ran a cracker.

“I would have taken a draw coming off the stand as I thought we were beaten.

“She went to the Munster National last year, but she had a very hard race there and it wouldn’t be my first thought now to go back for the Munster National.

“Going back into another handicap might be tough and I’m going to look at Graded races or conditions races for her.”

Mullins has been a notable absentee on courses since racing resumed and said: “I said when the owners came back I’d be back, so here I am. It was tremendous that two of the syndicate were here and I’m very happy for them and Jack Cantillon, who put it all together.

“It’s great that HRI have managed to keep racing on. It’s disappointing that more people aren’t allowed, especially for the likes of Listowel, however we have to be thankful for what we have.”

Cabaret Queen was completing a double for Mullins and Townend who had earlier lowered the colours of the previously unbeaten Malone Road with N’golo in the Seamus Mulvaney Bookmaker Novice Hurdle.

Malone Road made a mess of the last flight for Jack Kennedy, but even before then he was under pressure and Townend brought N’golo through a narrow gap between the long odds-on favourite and Wajaaha.

“He was probably fortunate that Jack’s lad let him down at the last, but they are there to be jumped and he left behind a disappointing run the last day,” said Townend.

“We left Kilbeggan scratching our heads a bit, but that was a bit more like it today. He’ll have to build on it, but at least he left the run behind him the last day.”

Class tells for Lady Wannabe at Listowel

Lady Wannabe made the most of having her sights lowered with victory in the Edmund & Josie Whelan Memorial Listowel Stakes.

Fozzy Stack’s filly had raced exclusively in Pattern company so far this year, most recently finishing down the field when a 150-1 shot for the Group One Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown.

Returning to Listed level for the first time since winning at Killarney in August of last year, the daughter of Camelot was a 14-1 shot under Chris Hayes – and proved her class with a near two-length verdict over Aidan O’Brien’s Keats.

Hayes said: “She had a good run the last day in superior company.

“We followed them around – they went good and hard, and the ground was as quick as she wanted – but the drop back in trip suited, and the rain came, which worked out a treat.

“That is probably her ideal trip (nine furlongs). She probably didn’t get home over a mile and a quarter, and they were going a gear too quick for her over a mile.

“She was able to get into a rhythm today and hopefully she can do something again later on.”

Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning combined for a double on the card, with 100-30 chance Sheer Bravado landing division two of the Feale Handicap and Agitare justifying 2-5 favouritism in the Jet & Peggy O’Carroll Memorial (C & G) Maiden.

The latter was not winning out of turn, having previously been placed at Listed and Group-race level this season.

Una Manning, daughter of the winning trainer and wife of the winning rider, said: “He was due his win – it took him a little while, but it was a good performance.

“The boss (Bolger) is delighted with him. He will get further and will go to the horses in training sale later on.”

Doctor Duffy out to extend winning run in Kerry National

Charles Byrnes is keeping his fingers crossed Doctor Duffy can continue his progression and put up a bold show in the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel.

The high-class hurdler was beaten on his first three starts over fences – finishing fourth on his chasing debut at Tipperary before suffering short-priced defeats when runner-up at Roscommon and Galway in July.

However, Doctor Duffy rewarded those who kept the faith when scoring in a first-time visor at Kilbeggan last month – and the headgear seemed to do the trick again when he followed up in the Mayo National at Ballinrobe two and a half weeks ago.

Byrnes said: “It took him a good while to get his act together over fences. He couldn’t win a beginners chase not that long ago – but his last two runs have been good, and the visor seems to have helped him.

“He’s up in grade and doesn’t have a lot of experience over fences, but we’ll hope for the best.

“If he runs like he did in Ballinrobe, he should run a good race.”

Doctor Duffy is the clear favourite in a maximum field of 18 runners on Wednesday.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins fires a three-pronged assault, with stable jockey Paul Townend partnering Cabaret Queen – winner of the Munster National at Limerick last autumn and third in the Galway Plate on her latest appearance.

Willie Mullins has a strong hand
Willie Mullins has a strong hand (Simon Cooper/PA)

The eight-year-old mare is joined by stablemates Robin Des Foret (David Mullins) and Blazer (Mark Walsh), who finished second and third respectively in a handicap chase at Killarney last month.

Mullins’ assistant David Casey said: “Cabaret Queen ran a great race in the Galway Plate. I think the track and the ground should suit her, so hopefully she’ll run well again.

“We’re putting cheek-pieces on Blazer for the first time, which I think will make a big difference to him. He’s in good form and ran a good race in Killarney the last day – I could see him running a big race.

“Robin Des Foret has been second in a couple of good races in Killarney this year, which is a flat track and similar to Listowel. He disappointed in the Galway Plate, but I think coming back to a flat track will be a help to him.

“Hopefully they’ll all run well. It’s a competitive race, but you can make a case for them all.

Malone Road runs at Listowel on Wednesday
Malone Road runs at Listowel on Wednesday (PA)

Henry de Bromhead saddled last year’s Kerry National hero Poker Party and has this year declared four runners – with Plan Of Attack, Spyglass Hill and Kupatana joined by third reserve Minella Times.

Gordon Elliott has a couple of representatives in Ravenhill and Three Musketeers, while Joseph O’Brien has Mortal and second reserve High Sparrow in contention.

Other hopefuls include Edward O’Grady’s The West’s Awake and Dermot McLoughlin’s course-and-distance winner Freewheelin Dylan.

The main attraction on the undercard is Elliott’s Malone Road, who puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Seamus Mulvaney Bookmaker Novice Hurdle.

The Cheveley Park-owned triple bumper winner returned from the best part of two years off the track to make a winning debut over obstacles at Kilbeggan last month, and will be strongly fancied to follow up faced with four rivals.

Plenty to celebrate as owners return at Listowel and Fairyhouse

Owners returned to Irish racecourses for the first time since the resumption of racing, at Fairyhouse and Listowel on Monday.

It was announced last week that, in line with new Irish Government guidelines which now permit racing and other outdoor sports to have a limited number of spectators, owners could be welcomed back.

Horse Racing Ireland had previously highlighted the return of owners as a top priority following the outbreak of Covid-19, with two people per horse initially allowed on course.

The feature event on day two of the Harvest Festival at Listowel was the 40,000 euro Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle, which went the way of 25-1 shot Politicise for trainer Ado McGuinness and jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.

McGuinness’ assistant, Stephen Thorne, said: “That was a rare jumps winner for the team, and I’m delighted. We won this race back in 2004 with Victram, so a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

“I’m delighted for the Dooleys (owners), who teamed up with the Shamrock Thoroughbreds lads to co-own the horse, and my own family and close friends are involved.

“He is a lovely dual-purpose horse, and we will give him a break during the winter and go back novice chasing next year. We’ll look for a Flat pot with him next.”

Part-owner Darragh McDonagh expressed his delight at being in attendance to witness the success of the Eric McNamara-trained Blackjack Boy (11-2 joint-favourite) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

McDonagh said: “We come to Listowel every year and normally we come Thursday and go home on Sunday, but today is strange.

“We went for lunch in Listowel and were considering staying down today if the horse won, so at least we have decisions to make!

“It is a strange atmosphere, but they are doing the best they can. We are all trying to do our bit to stay safe and we’re back racing, so we’ll take it.”

Le Figaro Faoudel was a shock 125-1 winner of the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle under Kevin Brouder.

Winning trainer Eoin McCarthy said: “He is a family horse, and my sister Sarah owns him; I convinced her to buy him at the sales two years ago, and he has broken my heart since we got him, with little niggles. However, he worked awfully well last week.

“We thought he’d run well today, and I might take him to the sales, but we’ll see.”

Top amateur Mark O’Hare announced he was retiring with a winner after 3-1 shot Jesse Evans prevailed by two and a half lengths in the closing Kerry Petroleum Flat Race for Noel Meade.

Among O’Hare’s biggest victories was Another Rum’s 40-1 success in the National Hunt Chase at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “I was going to quit at the end of last season – but then the whole Covid virus thing arrived, and I said I’d go for one more fix, and that is my final hit!

“It has been a pleasure riding for Noel, and he makes life easy in bumpers. He is a top trainer and a top man – and most likely I’d have retired earlier only for him.

“It has been a great career and great craic.

“The horse travelled the whole way and picked up lovely – he is a smart horse, and I was quite comfortable I would pass the leader and had plenty horse under me.”

Lady Princess returns to the Fairyhouse winner's enclosure
Lady Princess returns to the Fairyhouse winner’s enclosure (Gary Carson/PA)

The main event at Fairyhouse was the Listed Ballyhane Blenheim Stakes, which was won by Denis Hogan’s Lady Princess.

The 16-1 chance knuckled down for Joey Sheridan to get the better of New Treasure by a length and a quarter.

Sheridan said: “The race cut up, it wasn’t a big field, so we said we’d take our chance and see if we could nick a bit of black type.

“It’s worked out, and she’s a lovely filly. She’s always showed a lot at home.

“That’s my third Listed race of the year. Things are flying – hopefully it keeps up.”

On the return of owners, Fairyhouse’s general manager Peter Roe said: “It’s a great step. It’s the first tiny steps, and we hope we can keep going.

“It’s great just to get a bit of atmosphere back here again, and great to see their enthusiasm.

“They pay the bills, keep the show on the road, and it’s great to have them back.

“They’ve come back to a different experience than they left beforehand, but I think everyone here is just delighted to get going again – we hope we’ll be able to continue.”

Djingle makes most of Listowel opportunity

Djingle was too strong for Ornua after the Kerry Group Chase was reduced to a match following the first fence at Listowel.

Though six were declared for the two-and-a-half-mile feature on the opening day of the Harvest Festival, just three went to post after Paloma Blue, The Storyteller and Whisperinthebreeze were withdrawn.

Then just two were left, as Peregrine Run, the 4-7 favourite, came down at the first fence when held up in last place.

Daragh O’Keeffe was able to dictate affairs on Djingle (100-30) and John Queally’s seven-year-old shrugged off Ornua when he tried to close, pulling away to score by seven and a half lengths.

“If you’re not in you can’t win! He had a bit of form around here last year, but the race cut up,” said Queally.

“He was off for six months before his run the last day and we had decided (in February) to pull the plug with him after Warwick (Kingmaker Novices’ Chase). We tried to hold him up at Warwick, but it didn’t work and left him off after that.

“I might look at a handicap hurdle with him – he is rated 136 and it is an option. He has been a great horse to me.”

Andalusa (9-4) ran her rivals ragged with a powerful jumping display in the Cheesestrings Rated Novice Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare led from flag-fall and drew clear to score by 16 lengths from the 11-10 favourite Anything Will Do, to leave Paul Townend singing his mount’s praises.

“It is a while since I’ve had as much fun on horseback!” said Townend.

“She just jumps so well and chasing has brought about a lot of improvement in her. Up to now her jumping has been excellent and she hopped off the ground.”

Tellmesomethinggirl (8-11 favourite), trained by Henry de Bromhead, made virtually all the running to land the odds in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle.

The five-year-old, ridden by Robbie Power as Rachael Blackmore was serving a suspension, put up a determined display to beat Darrens Hope by two and a quarter lengths.

“She did it the hard way, the mare in second is a decent mare and we were giving her 10lb,” said de Bromhead.

“I’ll discuss it with the owner, but we might give her a little break now. She’ll go on soft, but we ran her on winter ground at Clonmel last January and she couldn’t walk on it.”

Longclaw (4-7 favourite) was all out to take his perfect record over jumps to three in the Kerry Group 3yo Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy.

There was a notable success for Barry Connell, as the Cheltenham Festival-winning owner enjoyed his first victory since taking out a trainer’s licence in his own right with Snake Oil in the Kerry Group (Pro/Am) Flat Race.

Connell said: “This is a very lucky place for me and I rode three or four winners and rode my last winner here. I love coming down here.

“We have 30 in training and have a lot of young horses – there are a few that will be moved on at the end of the summer season and more than half the yard hasn’t run yet and hopefully we have one or two more nice types like him.

“He is a proper horse and is the first proper horse I’ve run. We’ve had a few summer horses, but this lad has a big future.

“He had a lovely run at Galway and Finny (Maguire) said he was still green there so there is plenty of improvement to come and he is a super jumper.

“We might think about a winners’ bumper at Tipperary in three weeks next. We were delighted to get Finny today as he is top class.”