THE Denis Hogan-trained Action Motion sprung a major surprise at Cork on Saturday by winning the opening Happy New Year From All At Cork Maiden Hurdle at odds of 20/1 under Kilbrin native Daniel King.
Willie Mullins’ Alastor was sent off at 1/4 and all seemed to be going to plan for favourite backers when the Closutton inmate picked up the running after three out. Alastor however made a notable blunder when still holding a fractional advantage over Action Motion at the last. Action Motion forged to the fore early on the run-in and then held on valiantly to beat Alastor by a half-length, the pair returning two and three quarter lengths clear of the third-placed Whatcouldhavebeen.
"He had a lovely run the last here when finishing seventh," said Hogan. “I fancied him to be in the first three today and hopefully, he could now be sold to stay in the yard. He could end up being a horse for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham and Daniel [King] gave him a great ride."
The featured event was the Racing Again March 23rd Handicap Hurdle and the Sean Doyle-trained Lucky Max had little more than an exercise canter in the hands of seven lbs claiming amateur Rob James. Lucky Max, an excellent third on his penultimate foray in a €45,000 Naas handicap hurdle in November, always travelled with purpose on the outer and there was only going to be one outcome once he hit the front after three out. At the post, Lucky Max had eight lengths to spare over Takarengo.
Handler Doyle’s younger brother Donnchadh, who was also responsible for starting off Saturday’s Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle winner Tahmuras in point-to-points, owns Lucky Max.
"His last couple of runs were very good and we were hoping that he would do that. He previously won over two miles around here and we’ll see what else is coming up over the next few weeks."
Starzov, a Roscommon maiden hurdle in August, initiated the opening leg of a 103/1 double for handler Philip Tothwell by landing the McCarthy Plant & Agri Sales Rated Novice Hurdle under Paddy O’Hanlon. The 116-rated Starzov made his way to the front shortly after the last and the winning son of Morozov then drew clear in the closing stages to beat favourite Viceregent by four lengths.
“I had nine seconds in the lead up to Christmas and it’s great to get a winner again," remarked Rothwell. “This horse possibly wants further and a bit nicer ground and he’s owned by Jim Guilfoyle, who is a great supporter.“
Rothwell signed off courtesy of Weihnachts, sporting the familiar JP McManus silks, in the Annual Membership Available Handicap Chase. The 18/1 shot Weihnachts hit the front on landing over the final fence with Simon Torrens and he duly returned with one and three quarter lengths to spare over the staying-on Ballyadam Destiny.
“He seems to be a better horse on soft ground and today was the plan,“ said Rothwell of the nine-year-old Weihnachts.
Willie Mullins and Paul Townend kept their supporters happy by combining to collect the three-mile ITM Stallion Trail 13-14 January Maiden Hurdle with Walk In The Brise. Sent off the 11/8 favourite, the mare Walk On The Brise stepped up from her most recent third-placed effort at Tramore last month by leading from before two out to dismiss Japers Jack by an increasing 13 lengths.
In Mullins’ absence, Townend remarked: “Walk In The Brise had the benefit of a couple of runs, she was beaten by two smart sorts in Tramore last time. I think she has built on her Tramore run and she’s a very genuine mare that handled the ground surprisingly well."
Handler Mullins likewise was responsible for two winners as Fancy Girl made a victorious start to her track career by recording a facile frontrunning success under his son Patrick in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ (Pro/Am) Flat Race. Fancy Girl was always on top in the closing stages and she duly returned with two and a quarter lengths to spare over the hugely-promising Ascending Lark.
The Creighton Family-owned Fancy Girl could now be aimed at the Grade 2 mares’ bumper at the Dublin racing festival in Leopardstown next month.
Wexford-based handler Seamus Neville’s Notice To Close bravely came a second time to win the Quay’s Bar and Bistro Fermoy and The Stables Bar Carrigaline Beginners Chase under JJ Slevin.
Notice To Close, who shaped well in point-to-points last season, disputed the running until Trishknowsbest edged ahead after three out. Notice To Close, owned by Neville’s Kerry-born wife Ina, however stormed back to the fore some 75 yards out to defeat Trishknowsbest by one and a half lengths.
The next Cork meeting takes place on March 23.