Lester Piggott proved to be a big attraction for racegoers at Tipperary on Thursday evening, the ‘great man’ was on hand to cut the tape as the new facilities which have proved to be hugely popular were unveiled. Stories and races of years gone by were recalled and the card itself also lived up to expectations with a few future stars on view.
Not least among these was Sizing Rio which made a winning debut over fences when taking the two mile and four beginners chase. A Gade3 winner over hurdles the son of Heron Island was reported to be schooling well over the larger obstacles, he missed out on an engagement at Punchestown the previous week due to lameness but showed no ill effects as he recorded a comfortable success. Given time to find his feet by rider Andrew Lynch Sizing Rio kicked for home going down the back straight, he was slightly hampered by a loose horse three out but soon pulled away to win impressively by six lengths from Benevolent with Letter Of Credit a further six and a half length back in third place. Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead told me that he was always looking forward to the day when the horse ran over fences and he was not disappointed. Although hating the testing conditions Sizing Rio jumped and stayed well, he will now be put away for the summer and return around Listowel time when he is expected to be among the leading novice chasers.
Another to cause quite a stir was Young Finnegan which provided Ruby Walsh with a winning ride in the opening two mile maiden hurdle. the Portrait Gallery gelding had placed form in point to points before being sidelined for the best part of two years, he returned to run well over hurdles at Fairyhouse before skating up in a Cork bumper. Vibes from the Robert Tyner camp suggested that he was schooling like a handicapper at home and punters took the hint as that sent him off an odds on favourite. Always close to the pace Young Finnegan hit the front four hurdles from home and drew steadily clear to win unchallenged by twelve lengths from Popmurphy. Make no mistake but this was as impressive a display a one could wish to see, the winner is clearly held in high regard and if remaining in the one piece will pay to follow.
Brian O’Connell had little more than a steering job aboard Jubilee Year to land the spoils in the two mile and four 80-102 handicap hurdle. With only modest maiden hurdle form to his credit the Accordion gelding which was making his hurdling debut went to post a 14/1 chance. He made a mockery of the form book by coming with a sustained run from the third last to hit the front after the final flight under a tight rein and defeat Battlemount by a length and a half. Trained by the in-form John Joe Walsh Jubilee Year gave connections a pleasant surprise as thy felt that he would not handle the conditions but in fact he loved them. He is a fine big well bred horse that is expected to make his mark when he goes chasing towards the end of the year. Wrong Turn was backed to the exclusion of everything else to provide Ruby Walsh with a double in the two mile and a half 86-116 handicap chase however, after racing keenly he tipped up shortly after the halfway point leaving the Philip Rothwell runner Popaflora to cause a 20/1 upset. The Alflora geldings form has been difficult to follow and in fact he was racing from 5lb out of the handicap, he chased the leading Playing almost from flagfall but looked booked for second place when the latter came to the second last with a commanding advantage.
The complexion of the race changed dramatically here as Playing came down leaving Popaflora to go and defeat Mirador Del Conoe by seven lengths. These were the only two finishers but one had to feel sorry for the Tom Foley camp as Playing had the race sewn up when he came a cropper.
The two bumpers on the card were confined to animals that have been competing in point to points, the first of these was for mares and it produced a runaway winner in the shape of Ballykeereen which found far too much for the favourite Who Let The Dogsout. In the last couple of furlongs. Coming from well off the pace Ballykeereen was bang in contention turning the face the judge and ran right away in the closing stages to land the money by twenty lengths. races like this are always difficult to assess and it will be interesting to see how this one works out.
The same remark would apply to the geldings contest where the Willie Mullins runner Unlc De Bersy got the better of the locally trained Ashford Wood by a length and a half. Winning rider Patrick Mullins told me that his mount is a relentless galloper and loved the conditions, while there are no definitive plans for him the likelihood is that he will contest staying novice hurdles come the autumn.