Balko a Plate smasher
Balko Des Flos claimed a comprehensive victory in TheTote.com Galway Plate.
Making his first appearance since finishing third in a novice handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old was a 6-1 chance to provide trainer Henry de Bromhead with his second Plate success following the victory of Shanahan's Turn two years ago.
The French-bred gelding travelled well throughout in the hands of Davy Russell and was never too far off the pace being set by British challenger Vintage Vinnie.
Sandymount Duke, owned by Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, jumped to the front three fences from home, but Balko Des Flos was always in his slipstream and took over with two accurate leaps at the final two obstacles.
Shaneshill, the heavily-backed 3-1 favourite, got rolling after the home turn, but Balko Des Flos never looked in serious danger of being caught and passed the post a comfortable four and three-quarter lengths clear of the market leader in second.
Slowmotion was third and A Toi Phil, another Gigginstown representative, was fourth.
Russell said: "He was very good and all the credit must go to Henry and the team really.
"He travelled and jumped and I got to the front early enough, but the last thing I asked Davy Roche (De Bromhead's assistant) going out was whether he'd stay and he said 'absolutely, stamina is not an issue', so I was happy enough to let him go.
"I winged the last two fences and it's hard to give away that advantage by sitting up and pulling back.
"The horse was really fit and he was brave up the hill.
"I've never won this race, so it's nice to do it."
De Bromhead said: "It was brilliant and I'm delighted. He got super ride and I can't believe we've won it again – it's amazing.
"He did it really well and hopefully he's an improving horse. You were certainly starting to think you had a right chance bar a fall or something nasty happening (from some way out).
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"Davy was brilliant on him, but everything went our way today.
"We'll make a plan after I speak to Eddie and Michael (O'Leary).
"It was bottomless the day he won in Fairyhouse so he seems to go on anything really.
"It was great to see him handle that so well. I was a little bit concerned about the ground to be honest, that it might be too good for him."
He added: "He's already a proven winter horse, he won his beginners' chase at Fairyhouse in January so we'll see now if he can go to the next level."
Shaneshill's jockey Ruby Walsh registered his first victory at the 2017 Festival when Minella Beau made a successful hurdling debut in the Win Big With Tote Maiden Hurdle.
The well-backed 5-4 favourite was tackling obstacles for the first time under rules but Walsh was happy to set his own pace, and he was tracked by fellow Willie Mullins inmate Castello Sforza from halfway.
A mistake two out put paid to his stable companion's chances, with Turbojet emerging as the chief threat, but Minella Beau had plenty left in the tank and held on by three-quarters of a length.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "It's fantastic for the Mees (owners). It was Michael's idea to come here. We'd have put him out until the winter, but Michael said if the ground was safe that he should run here.
"He wants further and softer ground to be seen at his best."
Mullins then donned the Mee silks to land the Win Big With Tote (Q.R.) Maiden on his father's Exchange Rate.
Successful in a bumper but having his first outing under Flat rules, the easy-to-back 7-2 chance looked in need of a run two furlongs out, but the gap came and he responded well to dispose of Great Trango by two and a quarter lengths.
Miss Eyecatcher ran out a tremendously game winner of the Tote Irish EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle.
A smart bumper performer, Roger McGrath's charge had not really got her act together since going jumping, but David Mullins rode a positive race on her and she was to the fore from the start.
There were plenty of challengers queuing up behind her swinging for home, but the 14-1 shot really stuck her neck out and crossed the line a length and a quarter to the good over Rosie Alice.
Davids Charm (14-1) came off the reserves' bench to run away with TheTote.com Handicap Hurdle.
Up 16lb for his Listowel win in June, the John Joe Walsh-trained six-year-old still has plenty to learn because he ran around a bit after taking up the running on the home turn, but he is some way ahead of the assessor and beat Clara Sorrento by seven and a half lengths under Ambrose McCurtin.
Walsh said: "He's in here again on Sunday – over three miles – we'll see how he is," said John Joe Walsh.
"Ambrose gave him a really good ride."
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