MORE than 8,000 racegoers braved heavy showers to watch Croom jockey Andrew McNamara take the featured Greenmount Park Novice Chase aboard the Tom Taaffe-trained Argocat on the opening day of the Limerick Christmas Racing Festival.
Some 8,167 patrons thronged the enclosures at Greenmount Park - despite a wet beginning to St Stephen’s Day - to attend the opening day of the four-day National Hunt racing bonanza.
The Willie Mullins-trained Mikael D’Haguenet was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Grade Two Greenmount Park Novice Chase contest after finally breaking his duck over fences at Punchestown earlier this month, but he and Emmet Mullins hit the turf at one of the fences going down the back straight.
Previous course winner Argocat (9-4) moved sweetly into contention for Limerick jockey McNamara rounding the home turn before sweeping clear.
The winner is now likely to be aimed at a tilt at the Jewson Novices’ Chase at the big Cheltenham Festival in March.
Two Limerick trainers had a day to remember when saddling winners at their local track.
Bruree-based Enda Bolger saddled Love Rory to cause an upset in the Festival opener, the O’Kelly Bros Demolition & Environmental Contractors Hurdle under a fine ride from Croom jockey, John Thomas McNamara.
Tracking the even money favourite, Umpact, Love Rory stayed on strongly from the second last flight, with the jumps McNamara got out of his mount over the last two flights proving crucial. The winner was returned at a tasty starting price of 25/1.
Not to be outdone, Rathkeale trainer Eric McNamara, who enjoys a terrific strike rate at his local track, sent out Ponmeword to win the Sliabh Luachra Handicap Chase under Robert Jones.
The winner, returned the 3/1 favourite, ran on strongly after taking up the running two fences from home in the heavy conditions.
Eight-year-old Ponmeword was winning a race for the first time and is likely to go to Tramore for a contest on New Year’s Eve.
The going at Limerick for the second day of the Festival, December 27 was described as ‘heavy’. The opening contest was due off at 12.35pm. Races will be run on fresh ground on both tracks at Limerick on Friday. December 28.
The Limerick Christmas Racing Festival continues until Saturday, December 29.