Mantles a pointer to Hughes yard's form


RACING: Pat Hughes will be three-handed as he bids to land the valuable Pierse Hurdle for the third successive year at Leopardstown on Sunday. The Bagenalstown handler is represented by ante-post favourite Doonaree (Tony McCoy), Theseus (Steven Curtis) and Lawz, who is still without a rider.

Hughes won the race two years ago, under the sponsorship of Ladbrokes, with Mantles Prince, and the eight-year-old opened his account over fences in the Athgarvan Beginners Chase at Punchestown yesterday.

John Cullen's mount led two out, and stretched clear on the run-in to beat Brigade Charge by seven lengths.

"He tends to be a bit slow at his fences early on, so we schooled him over three fences this morning to get his eye in. He seems to be improving with experience over fences," said Hughes. Cashmans introduced him at 33 to 1 for the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Cullen went on to complete a double aboard Bangabunny in the Carnalway Cross Country Chase. Sue Bramall's charge survived a bad blunder at the second last to beat Back In Thyne by four lengths, and is likely to come back here in April for the La Touche.

Cronin's Boy is another on course for the Pierse Hurdle as trainer Eamonn Sheehy reported after saddling Louises Glory to gain a narrow success under Neil Mulholland in the Narraghmore (Opportunity) Handicap Hurdle. "Cronin's Boy goes for the Pierse Hurdle, and hopefully either Barry Geraghty or David Casey will ride," said the Co Kilkenny trainer.

Geraghty was on the mark in the following Kilteel Handicap Hurdle where the Tom Taaffe-trained Be My Case completed a hat-trick. The seven-year-old gelding made smooth headway to challenge in the straight but, after a mistake at the last, needed to be ridden out for a head verdict over the well-backed Sully Shuffles.

Ivan De Vonnas benefited from a drop in class when making all to land the odds in the opening INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle, while Rapid Flyer and Stonebridge Chance fought out a titanic battle in the straight for the Two Mile House Maiden Hurdle, with the former just prevailing.