Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa is set for a second tilt at the Galway Hurdle next month after springing a minor surprise in the Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary.
A field of 11 runners went to post for the 62,500 euro feature and the star attraction was the former Punchestown Champion Hurdle and Irish St Leger hero Wicklow Brave, trained by Willie Mullins.
Despite having to concede weight all round, the nine-year-old was the 5-4 favourite in the hands of Paul Townend and appeared well set for much of the two-mile journey, sitting on the tail of the pacesetting Dr Mikey.
Wicklow Brave hit the front rounding the home turn, but Sean Flanagan covered the move aboard 8-1 shot Joey Sasa and he came home best to secure the Grade Three prize by a length and a half.
Wicklow Brave passed the post second with his stable companion Sharjah in third.
Flanagan said: “He put down at the last but is always quick and clever and is a very good jumper. He was a little disappointing at Punchestown but he (Meade) has freshened him up and he has done it well.
“Wicklow Brave probably hasn’t turned up at his best, but I’m quite content as he (Joey Sasa) has run a lovely race and he’s a nice horse.”
Joey Sasa finished fourth in last year’s Galway Hurdle and his rider added: “All going well he could go back for the Galway Hurdle now. He (handicapper) shouldn’t be too hard on us and it sets him up nicely for it.”
Land Force made his class tell to take Listed honours in the main Flat race of the evening – the Coolmore Pride Of Dubai Tipperary Stakes.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained youngster had run an excellent third in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot won by American ace Shang Shang Shang.
Before that he had been third to high-class stablemates Fairyland and Van Beethoven in the Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh, so was not winning out of turn.
Sent off the 8-13 favourite under Irish Derby-winning rider Donnacha O’Brien, the No Nay Never colt was always travelling well and quickened nicely a furlong and a half out.
The result was never in doubt from there, with a ready two lengths the winning margin over Mintd.
O’Brien anticipates a run at Newmarket next week for the winner.
He said: “He had a lovely run in Ascot and the plan is to go for the six-furlong July Stakes at Newmarket next.”
O’Brien junior said: “He’s a nice horse, very uncomplicated and has a good attitude.
“He’ll stay six and will handle a little ease in the ground as well.”