Dooney Rock has owner dreaming of Cheltenham
"IT'S A lifetime ambition of mine to have a runner at Cheltenham," said a talkative Michael McElhone after the Barry Cash-ridden Dooney Rock made all to gamely land the 2m4f conditions hurdle at a grey and damp Fairyhouse.
Well, with a Pertemps Qualifier under his belt this fellow could well be the horseto fulfil that ambition.
The Sligo handler was training his first winner since July 2008. He hasn't always held a licence during that period, but it was clear that this winner gave him a deal of satisfaction.
He said: "I'm particularly pleased for the owners Eddie and Rita McAllister. They've been with me since day one and they bred this one as well - the dam won a race for me a few years ago and she bred another winner as well."
He added: "All the credit for this goes to my wife Ann, who rides him out the whole time. He's an outdoor horse and never comes in. If he gets into the Pertemps Final I would love to run him. It will be chasing a dream, but isn't that what it's all about?"
Double for McKiernan
Oliver McKiernan sent a fair few runners to the meeting and came away with two winners.
Rider Ger Fox had to perform heroics at the secondflight to stay on board Profit Margin, but it paid off as the son of Presenting battled strongly to win the 2m5f handicap chase.
The 44-1 double was completed 35 minutes later when stable conditional Shane Crimin partnered Changing Times to win the 2m4f maiden hurdle.
Ros Brin ends drought
It was one of those days when droughts were brought to an end on an industrial level.
Drogheda trainer GeorgeKingston and Dundalk native Stephen Gray hadn't had a winner for a combined five years, but that ended with the convincing victory of the High On A Hill Syndicate's Ros Brin in the 2m4f novice handicap hurdle.
Gray had actually partnered Kingston's last winner in 2009. His own drought had lasted since he rode a winner here in 2010, although he did manage to ride three winners during a short stint in Australia last year.
Gray said: "George is really the only person prepared to give me rides since I started back so it's great to ride a winner for him."
It's a stark indicator of how competitive the game is when a Galway Hurdle-winning jockey can hardly get a ride. Let us hope this leads to an upturn in his fortunes.
Philip Enright and Brian Who took a nasty-looking fall at the fourth hurdle but thankfully both escaped serious injury.
Mullins proved wrong
Willie Mullins indicated earlier that he did not think he would have a winner on the day.
That did not quite prove accurate as the 6-4 favourite Dr Machini, having her second start, ran out a seven-length winner of the concluding bumper under Patrick Mullins.
The trainer said: "I thought Alan Potts [owner] would be here - if I had known he wasn't coming I probably would have withdrawn her because of the ground."
The trainer has now won the last seven bumpers he has contested and Patrick Mullins has ridden seven consecutive winners as well.