Airlie Beach wins again
Airlie Beach stretched her unbeaten record to five with an authoritative all-the-way victory in the Pat Walsh Memorial European Breeders Fund Mares Hurdle at Gowran Park.
Walsh: Pleased with Airlie Beach's success.
Successful on her only bumper start at Kilbeggan last summer, the Willie Mullins-trained mare returned from almost a year off to make a winning debut over hurdles at the County Westmeath circuit in July before completing a course hat-trick at the start of August.
Having also impressed on her fourth start at Galway, Airlie Beach was the 4/9 favourite stepped up to Listed class, with Ruby Walsh taking over in the saddle from Paul Townend for the first time.
Just as she had done on her two most recent starts, the market leader was soon bowling along at the head of affairs and Walsh gradually upped the ante.
While still appearing green at one or two of her obstacles, Airlie Beach quickened well rounding the home turn and despite fluffing the last, she picked up again to score by six lengths.
Last year's winner Daisy's Gift, a stablemate of the winner, just beat Billy's Hope to the runner-up spot.
Mullins said: "She seems to be improving, whether she can handle winter ground is another thing. We will look at the mares' novice programme for her.
"She's surprising us with the way she keeps pulling it out and hopefully she's not stopped improving."
Walsh had finished runner-up behind Airlie Beach when siding with stable companion Retour En France at Galway last time out.
He said: "She travelled well and jumped well. She quickened smartly down the hill and it's a good trend in any novice to be able to beat the older horses.
"I was fairly impressed with her in Galway from behind with the speed she showed from the second-last. She's a little dinger to jump."
Mullins had strong claims of completing a double in the other Listed race on the card, the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mucklemeg Mares Flat Race, but his 11/10 favourite Queen Deirdre was well-beaten as British raider Snow Leopardess (4/1) emerged victorious.
A winner on her Doncaster debut before finishing fifth at Aintree's Grand National meeting, Charlie Longsdon's grey travelled well in the hands of Jamie Codd and galloped all the way to the line to score by three and three-quarter lengths from Takeittothelimits.
Longsdon said: "I've always loved her. The owner (Marietta Fox-Pitt) is a great friend of Jessica Harrington, and after running at Aintree she said why not go for this race. We didn't expect it to be quite as strong.
"She has grown and strengthened over the summer. She's a nice mare and Jamie liked her.
"She was the best four-year-old at Aintree and the most inexperienced. She jumps brilliantly and we will probably start her (over hurdles) at two miles, but she needs two and a half."
Jonathan Burke had to be stood down for the day after being brought down when riding Sizing Julie in the opening Thomastown Maiden Hurdle.
The leading jockey's father, Liam Burke, said: "He got a kick in the mouth and has a sore back. He's stood down for the rest of the day, but hopefully should be all right."
Burke is due in action at Gowran Park again on Saturday before heading to Tipperary on Sunday.