Play The Game lunged late to claim a last-gasp victory in the Dawn Milk Run Handicap Hurdle at Killarney on Thursday.
With a total prize fund of 26,000 euro up for grabs, the two-mile-one-furlong contest was the centrepiece of a seven-race card on the final afternoon of the five-day July Festival.
Line Out and Gold Seal were the 11-4 joint-favourites and the former looked set to prevail after moving smoothly into contention and kicking clear after the second flight from home.
However, Play The Game and Jonathan Moore landed almost alongside after jumping the last and following a thrilling duel it was the Tom Gibney-trained 8-1 shot who prevailed by half a length.
Gibney said: “I was disappointed with him in Bellewstown the last day as I thought he’d be there or thereabouts. Anyway, we decided to change the tactics today and it worked.
“It’s lovely to come down here and win a pot like that. It’s my first winner down here. I’ve had a heap of seconds, but never seemed to be able to get the head in front.
“He’s entered in the Galway Hurdle. It’s unlikely he’ll get into it, but if by some miracle he did he would definitely have a go.”
John Lonergan’s well-backed 14-1 shot Jazz Mine bolted up in the opening Killarney Grand Live Music Mares Maiden Hurdle in the hands of Eamonn Corbett, coming home 14 lengths clear of 13-8 favourite Agusta Gold.
Winning owner-breeder John O’Mahony said: “She’s a nice filly and is well-bred – she’s a half-sister to Jazz Messenger and is related to Fitzhenry.
“Getting her to win was the main job and today was a big day.”
Viking Hoard (3-1) was similarly dominant in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, with Kevin Brouder riding for Charles Byrnes.
“For a four-year-old it is unreal the way he stays,” said Byrnes.
“He’ll keep going and might go for a hurdle race at Galway.”
Byrnes went on to complete a double with Donal McInerney steering 8-1 shot Not For You home in front in the Dawn Omega Milk Handicap Chase.
Jessica Harrington’s 2-1 favourite Feeling The Love carried the colours of JP McManus to a clear-cut success in the Europe Hotel & Resort Handicap Hurdle under Mark Walsh.
Frank Berry, the owner’s racing manager, said: “She is very well bred but has had a lot of relations that never did anything. We’ve had a lot of the family and they were disappointing but, anyway, it’s nice to see her coming good and winning.
“She goes on the quick ground and hopefully we’ll get another run or two into her before the ground changes, although we might find somewhere quieter than Galway.”
Denis Cullen and Denis O’Regan combined to land the Dawn Hi + Lo Milk Beginners Chase with 16-1 shot The Last Marju.
Cullen said: “I’m delighted with that. He had a good start in Roscommon, he was just unfortunate to miss the first one down the back.
“He’s finding it a bit easier over fences than he did over hurdles – the smaller fields suit him.
“We’ll have a look at Galway.”
Joseph O’Brien’s 13-8 favourite Meticulous carried the colours of Michael Tabor to an impressive debut success in the concluding bumper.
Secret Cargo finished down the field for Philip Fenton, who was saddling his first runner since serving a three-year suspension for the possession of anabolic steroids.