Derek O’Connor steered Rocky’s Silver to victory in the Total Event Rental Amateur National at Punchestown.
With champion amateur Patrick Mullins booked by Gordon Elliott to partner Cheb De Kerviniou, he was all the rage as the 11-8 favourite – but ultimately had to make do with minor honours in third.
Despite finishing only sixth over hurdles at Cork little over a week ago, the James Dullea-trained Rocky’s Silver was prominent in the market at 7-2 – and benefited from a well-timed ride by O’Connor.
After getting a dream run up the rail approaching the second-last fence, the grey stuck to his task well – fighting off the challenge of Final List by a length and a half.
Dullea said: “Derek was at his very best there. We felt the trip and the ground would suit. Obviously he went up for winning here before, but we were hopeful.
“He made a mistake early on, but Derek got us out of trouble and gave him a fantastic ride. Any day a small yard like ours has a winner at Punchestown, it’s great.
“He could come back here for the National Trial. We’ve no long-term plans but we could look at something like that.”
Sean Aherne’s Chosen Hour was an 11-2 winner of the opening Sporting Life Beginners Chase under talented conditional Sean O’Keeffe, while 4lb claimer Trevor Ryan struck aboard the Tom Mullins-trained Chavi Artist (11-2) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase.
“He’s a grand horse, is easy to train and loves jumping,” said Mullins.
“He’s progressed nicely through the season to win today.
“He’s not over big, so maybe on better ground in the spring he might improve again.
“Trevor is a grand lad. He’s hungry and appears to be a sensible fella. By chance, I got him to ride one or two a few weeks ago. He got brought down on his horse at Leopardstown, and I said I’d give him another chance today.”
Paul Nolan and Phillip Enright combined to land the Irish Jockeys Association Critical Illness Cover With Irish Life Mares Handicap Hurdle thanks to 9-1 shot My Club Colours.
“We were going to wait for three miles, because I was worried about the tightness of the track,” said Nolan.
“She was off the bridle the whole way in Fairyhouse the last day, and Sean O’Keeffe said we might step her up in trip.
“In fairness, she went away and won it. It’s job done.”
There was a shock result in the concluding Racing TV Club Day Today Maiden Hurdle – with front-running 1-3 favourite Blackbow weakening into fourth place behind Henry de Bromhead’s 12-1 winner Le Musigny, ridden by Rachael Blackmore.
De Bromhead said: “He’s a horse we’ve always liked and always worked like a good horse, but he’s just taken a bit of time.
“He’s a big fella and is a half-brother to Le Richebourg and Grands Crus, so he has a savage pedigree.
“We said to Rachael to give him time and let him settle and see how you go. It worked out well, because they went a good gallop and got a bit tired near the end.
“She said he was still a bit green when he hit the front and should improve plenty. Whatever he does over hurdles, fences should be his game.
“He’ll go for a novice, and we’ll take it from there.”