Mystique Heights gets 2019 off to a flying start for Luke Comer
Willie Mullins undecided about whether to race top mare Laurina before Cheltenham
Ricky Doyle on Mystique Heights clears the last to win the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle at Naas Racecourse, Co Kildare on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The high-profile businessman Luke Comer got 2019 off to a flying start on the racecourse when training a 16-1 winner at Naas on Sunday.
Mystique Heights carried the billionaire property developer’s colours to success in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, winning by a length under jockey Ricky Doyle.
It was Comer’s first success since Kingston Girl won at Killarney in August and continued the upsurge in fortunes for his stables near Kilternan in Co Dublin.
In November of 2017, Comer was ordered to pay almost €50,000 in fines and costs by the Turf Club – now the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board – in relation to a series of long-running issues with the management of his yard.
Curragh trainer Jim Gorman was employed in 2017 to help improve operations at the stables. It was Gorman who greeted Mystique Heights on Sunday and he gave the credit for the win to Comer.
“Luke sourced him and he came from Mark Prescott,” Gorman said. “He’d been knocking on the door on the flat. He relishes good ground and he was back down in class from his last race at Leopardstown.”
In other news, Willie Mullins gave his Champion Hurdle second favourite Laurina a clean bill of health after her sauntering success in a two-runner race at Sandown on Saturday.
Afterwards the champion trainer indicated the mare, who is unbeaten in five starts for him, could go straight to Cheltenham in March.
On Sunday, Mullins was unclear about whether or not Laurina could run before Cheltenham, for instance in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in Leopardstown next month.
Cooper suffered concussion in a fall at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day and returned to action at Cork on Saturday
“I was so pleased with how she did it that, I’m not rushing towards making plans,” he said on Sunday. “We’ll look at the Leopardstown meeting. But we will see how things work out.”
Mullins was speaking at Naas where an impressive official attendance of 5,610 saw Gold Cup-winning jockey Bryan Cooper have a first success since returning from injury on board Meri Devie.
Cooper suffered concussion in a fall at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day and returned to action at Cork on Saturday.
Having finished runner-up on Sams Profile in the Grade One Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle, Cooper also had to settle for second in the handicap chase on Quamino.
However, he hit the mark in the mares Beginners Chase as the ex-Willie Mullins Meri Devie won on her first start for new trainer Paul Nolan.
Meri Devie’s task was eased when the 5-4 favourite High School Days blundered and unseated Rachael Blackmore at the final fence.
However, Nolan’s brother James subsequently indicated this win was very much a bonus for the versatile winner.
“We only have her about six weeks. She wasn’t brought to do this as she was bought as a broodmare. John [Brennan, owner] said to see how she jumps while she was waiting to go to a stallion and if we felt she could win a chase then let her do that.
“I don’t know if she will stay racing now to see if she can get some black type. We’ll have to see what John wants to do. I thought she’d need the run as we’ve done so little with her, but maybe it was a little break she wanted as she was busy on the flat,” he said.
Claiming amateur jockey Paul Cawley got the better of a sustained duel with Derek O’Connor to land the bumper on the 20-1 shot Aliym.
“He’s a lovely horse, raw, and with loads of improvement,” said Cawley, a brother of the Grade One winning professional rider Alain Cawley.