Thurles enjoyed something of a facelift during the close season which was widely welcomed.
However, as racing resumed for the new term on Thursday punters struggled somewhat as only two of the eight favourites managed to succeed.
Among the biggest offenders was the Tom Hogan trained Gocheck who turned over the heavily supported favourite Desertmore in the bumper.
Owned and bred by Morgan Cahalan of Gordon Lord Byron fame the son of Golan went to post a 12/1 chance for what was his racecourse debut. Given a patient ride by Jonathan Burke the five year old was settled well off the pace, he made good progress to be on the tail of the leaders turning to face the judge.
At this point the favourite looked home and dried but once Burke drove Gocheck to challenge a furlong or so out the picture changed dramatically as the latter found most in the closing stages to score by a neck with threeparts of a lengths back to the third finisher Frampton.
This was a good display by the winner and being out of a Norwich mare he should improve with an obstacle in front of him.
We had a sign of things to come in the opening two mile and two mares chase when Fantastic Gold turned over the well backed favourite Caoimhe’s Delight.
A useful enough animal both over hurdles and fences the daughter of Fantastic Light was given time to find her feet by jockey Eddie O’Connell, she came under pressure going across the top of the hill but responded well to head the favourite at the final fence and keep on well to land the spoils by a neck. This was another well judged effort by O’Connell who is currently riding at the top of his form and in plenty of demand by trainers.
Willie Mullins supplied the odds on favourite Drive Time in the featured two mile and six conditions hurdle but after attempting to make every post a winning one the Ruby Walsh ridden eight year old was caught right on the line by He’llberemembered.
Given a superb ride by Shane Butler the son of Blue Ocean gradually got into the race in the final mile and arrived top throw down his challenge in the straight.
At this point Drive Time looked the likely winner but in spite of not being foot perfect at the final two hurdles Butler forced his mount up in the very last stride to shade the verdict by a nose. Trained by Paul Fahey who also happens to be the farrier to the Mullins yard the winner He’llberemembered has been a good servant to connections and talk of a tilt at the Leopardstown Chase might not be that far wide of the mark.
Tony comes out on top
The Mullins brothers Willie and Tony fought out the finish of the two mile maiden hurdle for 5&6yo’s Willie’s charge Rough Justice started joint favourite but it was Tony that came out in top courtesy of Bishopslough in the hands of his son Danny.
A point to point winner the Fruits Of Love gelding ran a cracker in the point to point bumper at Fairyhouse but disappointed subsequently.
He started favourite on his hurdling debut also at Fairyhouse but had to be content with second place, however he made no mistake this time as he improved smoothly after leaving the back straight before leading at the penultimate hurdle and pull out plenty to take the money by a couple of lengths.
In his post race remarks Mullins revealed that he ran his charge too soon after his initial Fairyhouse outing and had to leave the horse out to grass.
Depending on how the handicapper views the race Bishopslough could go down that route, however, if he fails to make his mark then he will go chasing.
There was nother setback for punters in the first division of the 80-95 handicap hurdle over two mile and six furlongs when the 10/1 chance The King Of Brega ran out an impressive winner under Robbie Colgan.
Returning from a year and a half absence the son of Court Cave was always close to the pace, he took over before three hurdles out and under a hands and heels ride defeated Spiker The Biker by four and a half lengths.
A fine big horse the winner is well regarded by connections and was nibbled at in the betting market, he will now attempt to defy a penalty in a winners but chasing is his game in the long term.
Willie Mullins who has such a fine record at the venue was on the mark when the odds on favourite Balnaslow took the two mile and six beginners chase in impressive fashion.
Always in the firing line Balnaslow was not entirely foot perfect but he had far too much class for this field as he drew clear from the second last fence and under a tight rein defeated Hunting Party by a length and a quarter with fifteen lengths back to the third finisher Western Man.
While bigger tests lie ahead the winner looked decent and it will be interesting to see how he fares when stepped up in grade.