Jockey Luke Dempsey made the most of an unexpected opportunity as The Very Man continued his return to form with a decisive victory in the WKD Rated Hurdle at Downpatrick.
Gordon Elliott found another opportunity for The Very Man, whose maiden hurdle success at Naas last month was his first since a Navan bumper win in December 2018.
Dempsey was taking over in the saddle from Davy Russell – who sat out his Sunday rides, still feeling sore after a spill at Thurles 24 hours earlier.
Russell’s replacement had the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old bang in contention entering the straight as they and outsider Jimmy Two Times took over from Kasakh Noir.
It still looked a good battle at the last, but The Very Man then surged clear to win by eight lengths at 9-4, with favourite Wajaaha collaring Jimmy Two Times for second.
Elliott expects the winner to continue to improve.
He said: “He’s a grand sort. He had been beaten a few times, but in fairness to him he had some lovely runs and bumped into a few (decent) horses.
“I like the way he stayed galloping – he’ll be OK.”
Elliott doubled up in the closing bumper as the expensive Ballyadam opened his account at the second time of asking.
Bought for £330,000 by Cheveley Park Stud after winning a point-to-point for Colin McKeever, he was beaten at 1-4 on his debut.
His supporters were not afraid of being bitten twice, however, as he was sent off the 1-6 favourite under Jamie Codd – and this time there was no mistake as he came home 18 lengths clear.
Codd was clearly impressed, while Elliott said: “The ground was too soft in Navan and he was a bit free, but he’s a good horse.”
The opening Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle went to Barnaviddaun, ridden by David Mullins for his father, Tom.
It was a second successive winning ride for Mullins, following his graded success on Zero Ten at Thurles.
He had the 9-2 shot just in front running to the second-last, and they stayed on best to win by half a length from Hesamanofhisword, with hard-pulling favourite Vinnie Is Busy having to settle for third.
The winner was breaking his duck after being second the last twice, and Mullins said: “His last two runs were probably a bit sharp for him around Leopardstown, and I was only getting to know him around Fairyhouse.
“He stays well and is a big chaser in the making.
“He’s a well-deserved winner and it is great for his owner.”