Ferns Locks eases to comfortable defeat of Billaway
David Christie sent out the winner of the Thurles Racecourse Hunter Chase for the second year in a row when Ferns Lock followed in the footsteps of stable companion Winged Leader 12 months earlier to claim the 2023 edition by a wide margin.
Sent off as the even-money favourite following a comprehensive 12-length victory of the recent Turtulla open scorer Its On The Line on his first start in hunter chase company at Fairyhouse in mid-November, Barry O’Neill immediately sent Ferns Lock to the front.
Last year’s Cheltenham Festival hunter chase victor Billaway had initially kept the favourite company before dropping back to take a lead from the six-year-old after the opening couple of fences.
Billaway would struggle to get back alongside Christie’s charge, as O’Neill began to increase the tempo from the sixth-last fence which saw him edge out his lead to six lengths leaving the back straight.
The reigning champion hunter chaser did briefly close down the gap to the favourite on the run for the home straight, but that was for the briefest of moments as once O’Neill asked Ferns Lock to extend early in the home straight, the response was immediate and they swiftly put the race to bed.
In the end, Ferns Lock crossed the line some 20 lengths clear of Billaway with a further eight lengths back to the Stuart Crawford-trained Coastal Tiep who won the battle to best of the rest taking the third spot from Lord Schnitzel.