MELON, runner-up at four Cheltenham Festivals, upstaged last year’s Aintree Grand National winner Minella Times in Sunday’s Grade 3 Baroneracing.com Chase at a very wet Cork Racecourse Mallow.
Bryan Cooper’s mount led all the way and despite an untidy jump at the final obstacle, had plenty in hand in beating Doctor Duffy by a comfortable eight lengths.
Minella Times was well adrift in third, so it’s a case of going back to the drawing board for him.
“It’s great for the horse and great to get it. He got into a rhythm and really enjoyed it. This track seems to suit him and he jumped fantastic and was able to boss it.
"I was always confident and it was a great bit of placing by Willie," Cooper said.
Rachael Blackmore enjoyed better luck with Irascible’s hard-fought win over Cash Back in the Baroneracing.com Hurdle.
The race was run in heavy rain and the 4/1 shot was under pressure a long way out, but Gigginstown’s Grade 1- placed seven-year-old dug deep to shade it by a neck. The favourite Ganapathi had no more to offer in third.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge was showing a welcome return to form and his rider commented: “He’s quite a lazy horse but he has some lovely form back along and it’s great to see him get his head in front.
"I think, when he sees a fence, he will improve again.”
Midleton trainer Donal Coffey has done well with his small team of homebreds over the years, selling quite a few of them to Britain where they have gone on to win their share of Graded races.
He always enjoys having a winner and was on the mark in the O’Flynn Motors (Mallow) Mares Maiden Hurdle with Copper Destiny who revelled in the testing conditions to win by a wide margin.
Ridden by seven pound claimer Darragh Allen from Araglen, the well-bred daughter of Westerner was in the van from the outset and ran out an easy 15 length winner from Gerry Kelleher’s 4/1 shot Emily Roebling, the mount of Stevie O’Callaghan.
Copper Destiny has now won a point-to-point, bumper and a maiden hurdle and Coffey nominated a listed mares hurdle at Killarney as her next target.
“That was impressive and Darragh gave her a great ride.
"She’s a good mare from a great family and she’s been there or thereabouts every day.”
Robert Tyner sent out the J.P. McManus-owned Sir Bob, with Philip Enright in the saddle, to take the Velvet Cap (80-116) Handicap Hurdle by an eased-down 10 length from Martha Divine.
Enright reported: “That’s only his second win ever but he loved the conditions and it was one of the days where that was worth a lot to you.” Joseph O’Brien combined with his cousin J.J. Slevin for a comprehensive success through the well-backed odds-on market leader Prairie Dancer in the opening Dermot Casey Tree Care Maiden Hurdle.
The hot pot, who had finished behind Brazil in the juvenile hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, made virtually all and travelled and jumped well to run out an easy nine and a half length winner from Daniel King’s mount Prince of Verona.
O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell said: “He deserved to win on ratings and ran well in Cheltenham.
"He’s owned by a great bunch of lads who went to Cheltenham with him for the week and it was a nice race to find.
"He had the experience off the flat and he’ll probably mix it during the summer.”
Liz Doyle’s horses are running well at present and she sent out Bois De Clamart to take the honours under Richie Deegan in the E45,000 Baroneracing.com Handicap Hurdle.
The easy five and a half length winner was successful over fences at Gowran Park last month and successfully exploited his much lower hurdles mark here.
The trainer joked “There’s no point saying I hope the handicapper isn’t too hard on us now but, if we were to lose our novice hurdle status, we might as well do it today with this pot!
"He’s won three E40,000 races for us this year and he’s been a great horse to have.”