Ballybawn Belter and Simon Torrens win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares handicap Hurdle© Photo Healy Racing
J.P. McManus had the well supported Risk Belle topping the market but with that one an early casualty, the leading owners second string Ballybawn Belter proved an able deputy, when running out a game winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Always prominent under jockey Simon Torrens, the Liz Doyle trained five-year-old headed Gaoth Chuil on the run to the final flight, before battling on bravely to see off the late challenges of both Historique Reconce and Banntown Girl
A bumper winner at this track last March, the daughter of Valirann signalled that she was reaching a peak when staying on nicely in fifth position at Fairyhouse last time out.
Winning jockey Simon Torrens said; "I had the box seat the whole way, she just travelled everywhere. I was never worried about getting a run. She did it nicely."
“I'm very pleased. She won her bumper here, in similar fashion,” said trainer Liz Doyle.
“It was probably about two furlongs too short for her but I thought the good gallop would help us.
“It was a big ask and I was afraid that Frank (Berry) was going to kill me for entering her in it. I knew 2lb was all about we could get away with running out of the handicap.
“She jumps very well now. When she started she was very awkward over her hurdles on her first couple of runs. She was very slow, a bit right and left. It came together on her last couple of runs.
“It's hard race to win, I said to Simon that she wanted a couple of furlongs further and if she was travelling well turning in to kick and go because she'll stay on really well to the line.
“She pinged the last and I'm thrilled.”
On Torrens she added:- “He's exceptional. He's done so well for the boss (JP McManus) around here in those big handicaps.
“That's the true test of jockeyship, those big handicaps. Getting the margins right, the speed, positioning and the tempo of the race. It was a beautiful ride.
“It's my second win here, Last Goodbye won here at the inaugural meeting. We had a fantastic day, he won a little easier than her.
“JP is an amazing man to support me because I'm only a small trainer and I don't have many horses.
“I've been selling all my good horses and we've sold a couple of Cheltenham Festival winners over the years.
“It's hard to get people to engage with you and I'm so grateful for his support.”
Additional reporting by Gary Carson