Ontheropes got off the mark over fences in style when outpointing his rivals in the JT McNamara Ladbrokes Munster National Handicap Chase at Limerick.
Having his fifth run over fences, and only ninth start under rules, the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old landed the three-mile contest in the colours of Cheveley Park Stud.
Sean O’Keeffe produced the 7-1 winner to lead at the second-last and a superb leap at the final fence sealed victory. A Wave Of The Sea was two and a quarter lengths away in second place, with Top Moon a further three and a half lengths back in third place.
O’Keeffe said: “I’m delighted with that, and delighted to get the opportunity. I want to thank Willie for putting me up, and it’s great to get the job done.
“It’s my first time riding the horse, and in fairness he was very straightforward. He got away well and had a little peck at the first, but after that he jumped super everywhere.
“I was always comfortable, I had a lovely position, and I was confident to not let him try to sprint too much. I built it up from the top of the hill and he was good at the last – he winged it for me – and he was always holding on a bit.
“We made a mistake at the second-last but when I got stuck into him, he picked up again and was always doing enough.
“Willie’s done a great job with him. He’s had a few problems along the way, but it’s great to get a good pot for him.”
Gordon Elliott took the training honours with a 494-1 treble courtesy of Off Your Rocco, Kruzhlinin and Vado Forte.
Off Your Rocco (7-4 favourite) got the ball rolling when taking his tally to three from four over the smaller obstacles in winning the Listed Bluegrass Horse Feed Novice Hurdle.
Leading at the penultimate flight, the five-year-old went to beat The Little Yank by two lengths under Jack Kennedy.
“He’s a grand horse who doesn’t do anything fancy at home, but he keeps winning. We’ll keep him going as long as he’s doing that,” said Elliott.
“I was a little worried about the trip, but today he stayed very well. He’s a very versatile, honest horse who could even go further than that, looking at today. We’ll think about options for him.
“He could be one we might be able to bring to Cheltenham in October or something like that. He’s a nice horse.”
Elliott announced Kruzhlinin’s retirement after the 14-year-old held Buck Rogers by a nose in the David Fitzgerald Memorial Handicap Hurdle under 5lb claimer Jordan Gainford.
“We were under pressure running him and I hope this win doesn’t go unnoticed. We wouldn’t run the horse unless he was in good form and this is great and he is retired now,” said Elliott.
“We love all the horses in the yard, horses are first and foremost and while I want to train winners, we love the horses and in fairness to Camilla (Sharples, Elliott’s travelling head and Kruzhlinin’s owner) it is great.
“Everyone in the yard looks after this horse and he has also won 14 point to points. He will stay in the yard now to lead the young horses and it is brilliant.”
Vado Forte (11-1), ridden by Davy Russell, romped home by 15 lengths in the www.anglo/printers.ie Rated Chase.
The eight-year-old took up the running after the fourth-last and drew away to win easily from the 6-5 favourite January Jets.
“We thought he’d run well, but didn’t think he’d do that. He will be a good fun horse and we’re delighted with him. I was worried about the trip, but he could come back and could go over hurdles too,” said Elliott.
Cheltenham Festival scorer Mrs Milner looked good when making a successful reappearance in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Cailin Alainn Mares Hurdle.
Paul Nolan’s Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final winner asserted in the closing stages under Bryan Cooper to land the Listed spoils by a length and a half from No Memory.
“She was a little bit fresh and got upset in the parade ring and you’d always be hoping you had them ready, especially with the ground being more testing,” said Nolan.
“Bryan said he couldn’t get her to shorten (her stride) and came up outside the wings at the last. She got an awful fall at Leopardstown doing that and came up a little bit silly again today, but momentum got her over it.
“We have her back in action, she’ll stay over hurdles and I genuinely think she has improved. If she improves, she has the Stayers’ Hurdle option and while I genuinely think she has improved, she needs to continue stepping up to reach the higher level.”
Gavin Cromwell’s Stumptown (12-1) got off the mark on his first start under rules in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Maiden Hurdle in the hands of Conor McNamara, with Big Debates (4-1), trained by Robert Tyner and ridden by 7lb claimer Jack Foley, winning the Follow Limerick Racecourse On Instagram Handicap Chase.