Sher Beau still unbeaten
Sher Beau provided the former champion amateur rider Philip Fenton with the most important success of his short training career to date by rallying in the final strides to win at Fairyhouse yesterday.
The unbeaten six-year-old edged out Kill Devil Hill by a short head in the Grade Two Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Festival Novice Hurdle to retain his unbeaten record and have Fenton dreaming of next winter.
"It's doubtful you will see him again this season. He will jump fences next year, but we might start him off late around November," said Fenton, who has enjoyed a productive start to his new career since retiring from the saddle last September.
He has had up to a dozen point-to-point winners, and Sher Beau was a seventh success on the track. On yesterday's evidence that shouldn't be the extent of his contribution to the Fenton tally.
Our Ben, third in the SunAlliance Hurdle, was a weak favourite and eventually faded to fifth, but nothing travelled better than the winner who jumped to the front three out.
David Casey didn't kick for home, however, and before the last it looked like Kill Devil Hill had the race in his grasp only for Sher Beau to rally and deny the outsider on the line.
"A quicker gallop would have been better," said Casey, while Fenton was happy to report that owner Noel Morrissey has turned down numerous offers for the strapping winner.
Willie Mullins was disappointed with Our Ben and said: "That's the second time he has run flat here. Maybe he doesn't like the place. I wasn't happy a long way out. We'll try and find something at Punchestown."
Tony McCoy warmed up for his Grand National ride on Kadoun by winning his first ever race at Fairyhouse on board the favourite Lost Time in the maiden hurdle.
There was only three-quarters of a length in it at the line, with Daly Said It pressing all the way, and trainer Christy Roche said: "He needed the full McCoy treatment.
"Noel O'Brien (handicapper) thinks more of him than I do so he will go chasing!"
Beau Colina was also a winner yesterday, in the handicap chase, but he will not be taking in today's National despite featuring in the declared field.
Tony Martin's horse needed all Ruby Walsh's strength to overhaul Christmas Crackle, and Martin said: "We left him in the National hoping that Le Coudray would come out.
"I can't see him running after that."
Asian Maze, who just missed out on a trip to Cheltenham, more than made up for it with a dominant performance in the Grade Three mares' hurdle. An easy 12 lengths separated her from Mrs Wallensky at the line in a display that delighted Tom Mullins.
"She had a snotty nose about two weeks before Cheltenham and it was only at the last minute we decided not to go for the three mile novice," said Mullins.
"I thought she might win today but not by 12 lengths, and not having the race finished at the second last."
Conor O'Dwyer will miss out on Le Coudray in the Grand National, and the rest of the week, after an accident at home over the weekend.
Amateur John Thomas McNamara will ride Le Coudray instead.
Yesterday's Fairyhouse crowd of 6,500 was down 1,500 on Day One of last year's Easter festival. The Tote turnover was also down from 247,283 to 229,349.
Bookmaker turnover was down from 1,035,239 last year to 860,689.