Flame Bearer had to overcome adversity to justify his prohibitive odds in the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Trained by Pat Doyle and ridden by his son Jack, the seven-year-old was the 5-4 favourite to complete his hat-trick in the Grade Two contest following wins at Fairyhouse and Naas earlier in the year.
Carrying a 6lb penalty for his first Grade Two win, Flame Bearer made a mistake at the final flight in the back straight, but was still travelling well on the heels of the leaders rounding the home turn.
His supporters will have been sweating after Doyle went for a run up the inside of Ha D’Or and Paul Townend and found the door slammed firmly shut in his face.
He was again short of room jumping the final flight, but managed to get himself out of trouble on the run-in and got up to beat Ha D’Or by a neck, with The Tide Turns two and a half lengths away in third.
“He’s some horse and he got me out of trouble there today,” said the winning rider.
“On that quicker ground his jumping probably wasn’t as good. He’s never jumped at that speed in his life and he’ll have learned a lot again today.
“He’s a horse with a very big engine. I got pushed in and then I had to try to get down Paul’s inner, but that was never going to happen.
“Once I got over the last and he got running, I knew I was going to get there.
“He could go a long way. He’s not the most straightforward horse to train, he’s had niggly issues, but he seems to be mature and he’s doing things well now.
“He’s doing things right at home and doing them on the track – he could go all the way.”
Ha D’Or’s trainer Willie Mullins took the other Grade Two on the card, with 6-1 shot Bronn coming out on top after a thrilling finish to the awardsandgifts.ie Novice Hurdle.
The five-year-old was given a power-packed ride by Danny Mullins and dug deep from the final obstacle to get the better of Churchstonewarrior and Falcon Eight by half a length and a neck respectively.
“He surprised me on that ground, I thought he might want more juice in it,” said the champion trainer.
“Danny said he was very happy with him on it and he’d like to go further with him on that ground – he said he would improve again.
“We’ll see now whether he comes out of that well enough to go to Punchestown or whether we put him away and go chasing next season.
“He was bought with chasing in mind and that’s the direction he’s going.”
Dorans Weir gained herself some black type when taking the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Total Enjoyment Mares Flat Race for trainer Michael Hourigan and jockey Eoin O’Brien.
A bumper winner at Thurles, the six-year-old was then second behind subsequent Albert Bartlett winner The Nice Guy on the level at Leopardstown in December.
Despite not being seen since, the 9-2 chance was an impressive winner over 7-4 favourite Pink In The Park, prevailing by a length and a quarter.
“She’s a good mare, she’s a dream and I’m lucky to have her. She’s the one that will keep me going for another few years,” said Hourigan.
“She should have won in Leopardstown but maybe if she’d won there, she wouldn’t have won today as she would have had another 3lb.
“We’ll look at Punchestown now, we’ll go for the Grade Three mares’ bumper.
“She has already run in a hurdle race and finished fifth. If she doesn’t run at Punchestown, she’ll be going on her holidays.
“I have only 12 horses riding out but I wouldn’t give away any one of them. They’ve all run well and are young horses.
“I’m 60 years at it now and I’ll be 75 at Christmas.”