Exciting racing before a huge attendance

After yet another frenetic week at Galway, the western racing focus was on Roscommon on Tuesday. An exquisite summer’s evening drew a fine crowd, some compensation to the track for the monsoon which afflicted the last fixture.   The local bookmaker Pyramid sponsored the first two races on the card, both of which were competitive affairs over seven furlongs. Unsurprisingly, they involved really tight finishes.   In the first division, Rocky’s Choice just touched off Johnny Murtagh and the well supported Fields of Green, despite the game efforts of the runner up to rally. The result was hugely influenced by the five-point claim of O. Casey. The 20/1 SP was not a good start for most punters, with the clear favourite, Alf Tupper a mile adrift down field. Half an hour later, another head divided Newpark’s Doughter, at 6/1, and Salishan, the winner coming – as in the first – down the outside.   The O’Gara Race was an interesting contest, despite the small field. The market strongly favoured Mick Halford’s Nastrelli, who had been favourite for a big handicap at Galway on Sunday. Once again, Murtagh had to settle for second, this time at a respectful distance to Kingsdale Orion and Michael Hussey, Dawla, also well backed, once again failed to live up to earlier expectations and has become disappointing.   The Ulster Bank Maiden was an open event, in which Fran Berry brought Strike One from a most unpromising position turning in to take the prize from the front-running joint favourite, Master of Ceremonies. The winner also had his supporters, however, and sported the illustrious colours of Vincent O’Brien, whose son, Charles, was the trainer.   The ERA Oates Handicap was taken by Pat Smullen and Gilberto, yet another horse to make his challenge wide. He only won by half a length, but was always holding Persian Knight.   The first juvenile hurdles of the season, sponsored by the Railway Bar, concluded the card. Ruby Walsh had mounts in both divisions and came very close to landing a double. His long, late challenge on King of Redfield looked sure to succeed in the first leg, but racegoers were treated to the unusual sight of the great man being touched off in a tight finish as Won in the Dark and Tom Ryan rallied most bravely to get up.   Walsh had to make no such effort with his second mount, Paco Jack, who won in a hack, eclipsing the odds-on Right Or Wrong and Paul Carberry. Thoughts of the Triumph Hurdle are surely fanciful, but he has the look of a very talented early season novice. The winner was returned at 7/4, completing a night of blanks for backers of the market leaders. Perhaps the balmy evening provided some consolation.