Barry Geraghty, successful aboard Kylemore Lough at the weekend, rode his fifth winner of the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse as Eddie Harty’s Coney Island won with plenty in hand in the INH Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final.
A winner at Leopardstown over Christmas before seemingly having his limitations exposed in February’s Deloitte Novice Hurdle, the five-year-old was a 9-1 shot despite dropping markedly in grade.
Geraghty produced his mount to lead after jumping the second flight from the finish and he found an extra gear to beat Stowaway Shark by two and three-quarter lengths.
Harty said: “He looked a class horse when he won his maiden and the Grade One possibly came a bit quick for him. Maybe it was a step too far at that time of his career.
“He’s still a very raw horse and the better ground helped. We stepped him up today for a good prize and he’s got it well. He travelled and jumped well.
“We’ll see if there is anything for him at Punchestown. If not it’s a nice way to go out for the season.
“He looks a chaser in the making and it’s always nice to have a horse that can get three miles rather than one that needs three miles.”
Ruby Walsh delivered Clondaw Warrior with a perfectly-timed challenge to claim top honours in the Farmhouse Foods Handicap Hurdle and record his 100th winner of the season in Ireland.
A winner at Royal Ascot and at the Galway Festival on the Flat last summer, the nine-year-old was making his first appearance since running on Champions Day at Ascot last autumn.
Walsh rode a patient race aboard Willie Mullins’s charge, but produced him to challenge for the lead at the final flight and he jumped it well and landed running to score by three lengths at odds of 9-2.
Clondaw Warrior carries the colours of the Act D Wagg Syndicate, a group of owners that includes Walsh’s wife, Gillian.
The Plan Man was second, ahead of Modem in third.
Mullins said: “He just missed the cut in the Galway Hurdle last year and hopefully he’ll get into that this year.
“We have an entry for the Scottish Champion Hurdle. He ran a bit better than I expected as we didn’t enter him for the Yorkshire Cup which closed today, but they went such a gallop that it played into his hands.
“They went very fast and it all just seemed to collapse. I thought it was probably the ride of the week. He’d only a few behind him at Ballyhack, and got a lovely run through but he was brazen enough to take it.”
Kerry Lee claimed her second victory of the as Top Gamble ran out a comprehensive winner of the Normans Grove Chase.
The English trainer has enjoyed a marvellous first season after taking over the licence from father, Richard, and tasted Grade One glory for the first time when Kylemore Lough clinched Sunday’s Ryanair Gold Cup on Sunday at the Co Meath track.
Like his stable companion, Top Gamble made the journey with excellent claims for his Grade Two assignment, having beaten last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Dodging Bullets in the Game Spirit at Newbury last month.
The 5-4 favourite was partnered by British champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson and quickened up well in the straight and safely negotiated the remaining obstacle to seal a seven-length success.
Sizing Granite fared better than when pulling up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham a fortnight ago to fill the runner-up spot, but there is room for improvement in the jumping department.
Days Hotel was third, while having cut out much of the running, multiple Grade One winner Flemenstar weakened quickly from the home turn and passed the post fourth.
Johnson said: "The last time I was here was when I rode for my father-in-law Noel Chance in the Irish Grand National five or six years ago.
“It’s great to come over, Kerry’s horses are running very well and this horse, on his day, is very good. He was good at Newbury.
“We were slightly worried the ground might have dried out too much, but it was a strong gallop and it suited him well.
“He’s not the fastest, even though he’s a two-miler. He prefers very soft ground.
“Once we jumped three out I felt I had a very good chance then.”
Lee said: “Cheltenham certainly wouldn’t have suited him and that’s why we held back and came here.
“This looked very much the right race for him and I’m very pleased that Richard came over to ride him. He suits this horse very well, and gave him a belting ride.
“They went fast which suited him, and it just goes to show how versatile he is as he can win from the front or from behind.
“I’d say it’s very likely that he will come back for Punchestown. He’s won three Grade Twos now so he deserves to step up (to a Grade One).
“I wouldn’t risk him on anything better than good to soft. He’s a very nice horse.”
She added of Kylemore Lough: “Kylemore Lough came out of his race really well on Sunday. He’s absolutely bouncing and thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Fairyhouse.
“It looks like we will have two runners at Punchestown.”