With Cheltenham just six weeks away, the feature event, the Listed Surehaul Benz Novice Hurdle yielded a live prospect for Festival honours in the shape of the 2/1 favourite Folsom Blue which destroyed a decent field in romping to a nine length win over the 20/1 outsider Castle Wings and Knockgraffon King. Trained in Co. Kildare by former top rider Conor O’Dwyer and owned by the Gigginstown House Stud, the very impressive winner will now be aimed at the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle for which his odds shortened from 20/1 to 12/1. Davy Russell had the proverbial armchair ride on the Our Vic gelding which took up the running entering the straight before coasting clear of his rivals.
Trainer Willie Mullins is in red hot form and saddled another brace of winners which were both partnered by his son Patrick. There was, however, a downside to the trainer’s afternoon as two of his Grand National entries, The Midnight Club, which started favourite at Aintree last year, and Cooldine disappointed in the Clonmel Festival Week Chase. The Mullins double was initiated by the 6/4 favourite Immediate Response in the Clonmel Festival Week Handicap Hurdle and although this winner has only been in the yard for some weeks he overcame an 830 day absence since his last race by cruising to a six and a half length win over Witness Box with Lord Americo a neck back in third place.
Boxer George completed the double in the concluding Clonmel Festival Week Maiden Hunters Chase by accounting for the 25/1 chance Wizard King by two lengths and this 9/4 second favourite is now bound for Cheltenham but the trainer stressed that the main objective will be the Foxhunters Chase at Aintree in which he finished runner-up a year ago.
The Midnight Club was a 4/5 chance in the Festival Week Chase and he was partnered by Ruby Walsh who had just flown back from his unsuccessful appeal earlier in the day against a three day suspension imposed at Cheltenham last week. The Midnight Club was never travelling according to his rider and could only finish third ahead of stable companion Cooldine who is now looking a light of other days and is being aimed at hunter chases although a trip to the Grand National has not been ruled out. The spoils went to course specialist the 6/1 chance Leanne which is trained in Templemore by veteran Bill Harney. Leanne finished strongest to get the better of Trafford Lad by three quarters of a length with Bryan Cooper in the saddle. Leanne was gaining a fourth success for her owner, the trainer’s wife Imelda, and has an entry in Thurles on this Thursday although stable companion Kakagh is also in the line-up and might prove the trainer’s preferred runner.
Racing opened with a winning favourite the 11/4 chance Alf Wright in the Clonmel Festival Week Maiden Hurdle. This one led at the penultimate flight and with Barry Geraghty in the saddle went away to record a two and a half length win over Flaming Pop with third spot going to Coolking. This was rider Geraghty’s first win for trainer Eoin Doyle who is based in Mooncoin.
The longest priced winner of the afternoon was the Eddie Harty trained Dressedtothenines in the five runner Clonmel Festival Week Mares Novice Hurdle. Owned by J.P.McManus this 14/1 chance which paid just a little over 8/1 on the tote scored by six lengths from joint favourite Noras Fancy in the hands of Niall Madden. The other joint favourite Is Herself About seemed held in second when falling at the second last hurdle.
Graignamanagh restricted trainer Lar Butler and his ten member All But Two Syndicate from New Ross celebrated in the winner’s enclosure following the success of their 11/1 chance Odonimee in the Clonmel Festival Week Beginners Chase. Ridden by Sean Flanagan, just back from a spell cross-channel with Evan Williams, Odonimee made every post a winning one and romped away to an eighteen length win over Ballyburke with the third home the 40/1 chance a further eighteen lengths back.
The Stewards of the meeting were: S. McDonogh, M. McMahon, P. Coveney and P.W. Murtagh. The next meeting at Clonmel is on Thursday, 16th February.
The totalisator aggregate bet at the meeting was €80,533 which compared favourably with the €64,049 wagered at the corresponding meeting a year ago.
The Jackpot Pool amounted to €7,450.50 and eight winners each received €651.60. The Placepot Pool was €29,677.78 and 115.8 winning units each received €192.10. The Daily Double pool paid €111 and the Pick Six pool was worth €1,105.