Penhill stars at Limerick

Penhill got back on the winning trail and starred in a Limerick treble for Willie Mullins with an impressive victory in the Guinness Novice Hurdle.

Penhill (left): On target again at Limerick.

The smart Flat performer won four of his first five starts over obstacles for the champion trainer before finishing fourth behind stable companion Airlie Beach in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Stepped up from two to three miles for this Grade Two assignment, Penhill was a 3/1 shot under Paul Townend, who was content to bide his time.

Fellow Mullins inmate Livelovelaugh took the five-strong field along for much of the journey, but his stable-companion loomed up ominously in the home straight and came home with seven lengths in hand.

Call The Taxie comfortably beat a tiring Livelovelaugh to the runner-up spot. Noel Meade's even-money favourite Rathnure Rebel was bitterly disappointing.

Townend said: "I thought we went a good gallop and he jumped okay, but I suppose the step up to three miles helped him. It helps him sort himself out, but he still galloped into one or two (hurdles).

"There was a question mark whether he'd get the trip coming here, but he got it well and I don't think we hung around."

Mullins and Townend had got the afternoon off to a flyer with Pylonthepressure (evens favourite) in the Racing Post Maiden Hurdle, before Benie Des Dieux (4/6 favourite) made a flying start to her Irish career with a runaway success in the Limerick Racecourse Vets Mares Beginners Chase.

"He (Pylonthepressure) has run into one on a couple of days but I was anxious to make use of his experience today. He jumped brilliant, but would want to at this stage in his career," said Townend.

"I'd imagine he'll be running in a winners' race next, as opposed to a Graded race.

"It was a fair performance from the mare. The plan wasn't to make the running but she was jumping so well, I had to leave her on.

"She had been showing plenty, I was never out of second gear and she jumped like a stag."

Having also enjoyed two winners on the final afternoon of Leopardstown's four-day meeting, the champion trainer ends the Christmas period having saddled a remarkable 22 winners in four days.

Trainer Michael Hourigan claimed a double at his local track.

Undressed was a /-1 winner of the Ladbrokes Rated Novice Chase before Moores Road obliged as the 3/1 favourite in the Frank Hogan Mercedes Benz Limerick Handicap Hurdle.

Despite the success, Hourigan was in somewhat dispirited mood as he reflected on the current state of Irish racing.

The trainer, who turned 69 earlier this month, said: "It's nice to get a winner. I used to be leading trainer here when I could train five or six winners in the week, but now there are younger fellows like Willie Mullins taking over and training 20 in the week.

"I've had great times and this place is a happy hunting ground, but we're quiet at the moment.

"I have between 25 and 30 horses in training. It's plenty because you can't get the staff and this training game is a headache now.

"You're not happy doing it, you do it because you love it. There's not a hope I would stay at it if I was younger as I don't have the numbers.

"This game has been good to me though and I'll stick at it as long as I can. We'll survive!"

The Ballyboys (10/1) landed the Ryans Cleaning Handicap Hurdle and Minella Fair (3/1) struck gold in the bumper.

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