Bargain-buy Skyace claimed Grade One glory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse.
Despite placing in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the six-year-old changed hands for just £600 in November 2019 and has proved an extremely shrewd acquisition by trainer Shark Hanlon.
Following wins at Grade Three and Listed level, the six-year-old finished fourth in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month – and was a 4-1 joint-favourite for her latest big-race assignment.
Skyace travelled strongly on the heels of the leaders for much of the way, but after taking over the lead early in the home straight, she looked at the mercy of the strong-travelling Gauloise between the final two flights.
However, Jody McGarvey’s mount refused to bend and managed to hold off the Mullins-trained runner by half a length.
Hanlon, saddling the first Grade One winner of his career, said: “It’s great – she’s as tough as nails.
“She came home from Cheltenham and I said she was better coming out of it than she was before she went.
“I was afraid of the mares that hadn’t ran in Cheltenham more than the ones that had. I just felt she’s in great form, she’s tough and it’s great to have one like her.
“Everyone wants to have one Grade One winner and for me to have one is great.
“I think it’s great for racing as it shows you can get a small-priced filly and get a syndicate together and go and have fun.
“It’s great for the lads that own her. There’s a hundred of them sitting down today in Dubai for a meal – they did the same at Cheltenham – and there’ll be a few roars.
“I honestly thought she couldn’t get beat today.”
McGarvey added: “It’s pure fairytale. Every time she kept winning, nobody could believe it and everybody kept underestimating her.
“Shark gave her a break at the right time and she’s thrived for it. She’s turned into a brilliant racemare.
“Even when she won in Punchestown (in December), I said after it ‘what’s she got to do for everyone to believe how good she is’?
“She’s come here today and she’s proved that she is that good.”