Norman Lee-trained Sole Pretender lights up Cork Racecourse on winning return

Great action on the second of a three-day Easter meet in Mallow
Norman Lee-trained Sole Pretender lights up Cork Racecourse on winning return

Botani and Brian Hayes (far) win the O'Dwyers Steel Dundrum Easter Handicap Hurdle from Zoffanien. Picture: Healy Racing.

THERE was some stellar fare at the second stage of the three-day Cork Easter meeting and the Norman Lee-trained Sole Pretender lit up the afternoon by returning from a near 20-month lay-off to win the BARONERACING.COM Hurdle with Simon Torrens. 

Sole Pretender, who finished a fine fifth off top-weight in the 2019 Galway Hurdle, made all the running and his jumping was quite simply a joy to behold. 

The winning son of Gold Well effortlessly asserted from two out to beat recent course winner Bapaume by five lengths in the colours of Mike Hogan from Castletroy.

Gort-based handler Lee reported: ”He’s a horse that had a little issue and we gave him the whole year off. I thought he would need the run, but he is a proper good horse and he will improve for the run too.“ 

 There was history made in the closing Jim Ryan Services (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race as Keri Brion became the first American licenced trainer to send out a winner under national hunt rules in Ireland when newcomer Scorpion’s Revenge sprung a 25/1 surprise under Dan Nevin. 

Scorpion’s Revenge led from over two furlongs out to thwart the promising Shuil Donn by one and a half lengths.

Waitnsee and Kevin Brouder (far) jumping with Macgiloney. Picture: Healy Racing.
Waitnsee and Kevin Brouder (far) jumping with Macgiloney. Picture: Healy Racing.

“I sourced this horse for the owners in November from James Doyle and he will be coming back to the States with me,“ said the winning handler of Scorpion’s Revenge. 

Ms Brion, who recently took over the licence held by the legendary Jonathan Sheppard, is presently domiciled at Baltimore Stables outside Enniscorthy, but she will be returning to her Fair Hill base in Maryland later this month.

Brian Hayes completed a near 27/1 double by winning the featured €40,000 O’Dwyers Steel Dundrum Easter Handicap Hurdle aboard the mare Botani. 

An initial winner for Colm Murphy since the Co Wexford-based handler resumed his training career last year, Botani held on grimly as runner-up Zoffanien closed inside the dying strides to score by a short head in what was the closest finish of the afternoon.

“She deserved that as she was very unlucky in two maiden hurdles,“ said Hayes of Botani. 

“She went on the ground and she will pay her way during the summer. I’m delighted to ride a winner for Colm {Murphy] as he has been very loyal to me over the years.“ 

Roscarberry native Hayes earlier partnered a first winner for owner Mrs John Magnier by steering the Willie Mullins-trained The West Awaits to an emphatic success in the O’Flynn Motors Mallow Mares’ Maiden Hurdle. 

The West Awaits, having finished fourth on her return to action at Punchestown on March 1st, jumped into the lead three out and she made the rest of the running to dismiss Rambling Rose by five and a half lengths.

“She jumped well and handled the nicer ground. She will be a nice mare over fences,“ remarked Hayes of The West Awaits, a €140, 000 graduate of the 2018 Derby sale.

The Very Man and Jordan Gainford with Caitriona Bolger and Katie Young after winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing.
The Very Man and Jordan Gainford with Caitriona Bolger and Katie Young after winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing.

John Ryan’s mare Waitnsee attained a valuable black-type winning bracket by capturing the Grade 3 BARONERACING.Com Chase under Kevin Brouder. 

Runner-up Spyglass Hill still held the call when erring at the last in this three-mile contest as the 125-rated Waitnsee forged to the front to oblige by a widening four and a half lengths.

“She’s a proper mare that will now go to Punchestown for one of the graded races and she might also go to run in the UK later on,“ said handler Ryan of Waitnsee, owned by Mark Fleming from Britain.

Enda Bolger’s veteran Josies Orders limbered up for a banks race at this month’s Punchestown festival by springing a 100/1 surprise with Phidelma Elvin in the Munster Waste Management Handicap Hurdle. 

Josies Orders, Nina Carberry’s final winner as a jockey at the 2018 Punchestown festival, picked up the running before the last to beat long-time leader Minella On Line by two lengths.

“He’s a schoolmaster at home and I have him for the kids to ride,“ said owner/trainer Bolger of Josies Orders, who also spent a recent spell with Aileen Sloane-Lee in Cloyne being ridden on the beach.

Jordan Gainford continued his terrific run by landing the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase aboard Sneezy Foster’s The Very Man. 

Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, The Very Man edge into a narrow advantage before two out and the winning seven-year-old asserted close home to dismiss Port Stanley by one and a quarter lengths.

Jessica Harrington-trained Ya Ya Baby got the afternoon off to the best possible start for punters by winning the Dermot Casey Tree Care Maiden Hurdle for four-year-olds. 

Ya Ya Baby showed the necessary improvement from her second-placed effort at Navan last month by making smooth progress to lead after two out and she was always in command from the last.

Ya Ya Baby’s jockey Sean O’Keeffe disclosed: ”She had a nice run the last day and was very good over the last three hurdles here. She should have a nice future over hurdles.“ 

The third day of the Cork Easter meeting takes place Monday afternoon (1.50pm start).

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