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Damalisque enters Leopardstown reckoning with Navan victory

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.”

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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.”

Andy Dufresne keeps unbeaten record over fences intact

Andy Dufresne maintained his unbeaten record over fences when making most of the running in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Klairon Davis Novice Chase at Navan.

The six-year-old built on his winning debut over fences at Wexford to get the better of his two rivals in the Grade Three contest.

Cavalry Master tried to keep company with Andy Dufresne but was dropped from the third-last fence, meaning the Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old only had Gigginstown House Stud’s other runner, Embittered, to deal with.

The 8-15 favourite duly showed a good attitude in keeping on stoutly to keep that rival at bay by three lengths. Cavalry Master was 56 lengths away last of the three.

Andy Dufresne was cut to 16-1 from 25-1 by Betfair for the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

Elliott said: “He knew he had a race from the last home and I’d say he wants two and a half miles.

“Christmas may come a bit soon for him and he could be one for something like (the Grade One at) Fairyhouse over two and a half miles.”

Unexcepted impresses with victory on chasing debut

Unexcepted put up a sparkling round of jumping to win the Cashel Beginners Chase at Tipperary – in which odds-on favourite Captain Guinness was pulled up at halfway.

Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness was expected to take high rank among this season’s novice chasers, given how well he was running in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March before he was unfortunately brought down.

Rachael Blackmore set out to make all on the favourite. But after an awkward jump, they conceded the lead to Willie Mullins’ Unexcepted – and Blackmore soon realised all was not well and pulled him up.

That is to take nothing away from the 7-2 winner, though, who was virtually foot perfect throughout for Mark Walsh en route to an eight-length success from Entoucas.

A hurdles winner on his Irish debut last season from the smart Jason The Militant, he was then beaten at odds-on at Limerick and pulled up early in a big handicap in February – but he is clearly over whatever was ailing him that day.

Betway were impressed and gave the winner a 14-1 quote for the Arkle in March, while Betfair are offering 20-1.

“He jumped brilliant and he was out-jumping Rachael (Blackmore), and I was taking him back over the first four fences,” said Walsh.

“After that I said ‘this lad is winging’ – so I just let him go, and he loved it. He was very quick over his fences and makes lengths at them, so you’d have to be delighted with that.

“He is a half-brother to (Grade One-winning chaser) Great Field, so hopefully he’ll go the same way and win a few of those good races.”

Blackmore reported to the stewards that Captain Guinness returned “unsound behind”.