Des McDonogh will always be remembered as the trainer of the great Monksfield, but even after all these years he is still relishing a trip to the winners’ enclosure, writes Bradley West.
The County Meath trainer famously claimed Champion Hurdle glory in 1978 and 1979, and is still riding high some 42 years later as he took the big prize on day one of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival with Hearts Are Trumps.
McDonogh has had a winner every year since 2008 and he kept that run going as the 12/1 shot Hearts Are Trumps took a first victory in two years by pulling clear of the field after the last in the RYBO Handicap Hurdle.
Along with his wife Helen, McDonogh has never lost the buzz for racing and nurturing horses.
“It’s great to be able to get out in the morning in the fresh air and struggle away when the age is upon us,” McDonogh said.
“Helen is at home and she’s the same, she’d have to be out every morning. She loves that horse and I’m delighted for her.”
Last year’s Galway Hurdle runner-up, Hearts Are Trumps has struggled over soft to heavy ground on each of his five starts since.
But it was always felt that he would return to form over better ground and so it proved, as Denise Foster’s Magic Tricks was beaten into second.
“There was always going to be a big one in him. He’s very experienced, he’s a wonderful jumper and he’s what you need for a big field like that.
“He has a great attitude and since Galway, every race he’s been in has been nearly heavy and it just blunts his speed.
“He just got a super jump at the last. Jody [McGarvey] gave him a brilliant drive, same as at Galway where he was wonderful as well.
“It’s a good bit away but that’s what you’d hope anyway [a return to Galway]. He’s run there the last two years and ran very well the previous time.
“He just deserved to get one like that.”
Elsewhere, Elimay continued her strong form with victory in the Mares Chase – having finished second to stablemate Colreevy at Cheltenham.
The grey led home a JP McManus 1-2 on a strong day for the owner, with 50/1 Demi Plie running a brilliant race to finish second.
“She’s not the biggest, but she’s a strong little mare and loves jumping,” trainer Willie Mullins said.
“You could even see today with the race that it looked like the effects of Cheltenham were kicking in and I wondered whether she’d have enough in the tank.
“Even going down to the last when it looked like she was going to win easy, she put in three extra strides instead of one and just shortened up going to the last, very safe, and nearly got caught then ending up flatfooted.
“It showed what she still had in the tank, when push came to shove she just opened up.
“She’s brave but she’s minds herself and I like that in horses because they last longer.”
Meanwhile, there were also wins on the day for Mullins’ Lady Breffni in the Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final, Ificudiwud in the Ladies National Handicap Chase, Solomn Ground in the Hunters Chase and Party Central in the Mares Flat Race among others.