THE Arthur Moore trained ‘Fag An Bealach’, partnered by Darragh O’Keefe – who was celebrating his 21st birthday – proved the facile winner of a very competitive renewal of the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick on Sunday, March 21.
The winner of the £50,000 feature improved steadily in the final mile and led before the last prior to stretching clear on the run to the line. The locally trained pair ‘Flinck’ (50/1) and ‘Askann’ (16/1) finished runner up and third respectively.
Moore, a former Champion Irish trainer, is familiar with Grand National success, having sent out the locally owned ‘Organisedconfusion’ to win the 2011 Irish Grand National.
Moore said: “This is a great day. I rode the winner in my time for Willie Rooney (from Glengormey), the grandfather of my son-in-law (Kevin Ross) and previously trained the winner. I was half keeping her for the three mile novice handicap in Navan and she didn’t get in and we are probably lucky because this race suited her very well and the ground was perfect for her. This was her first time over further than two miles four furlongs – her dam is a half-sister to ‘Niche Market’, an Irish National winner, so there was no reason why she wouldn’t stay.
“She is only a seven-year-old and I had thought this race was for older horses and it worked well her getting in down the bottom of the weights, so it is all in front of her.”
Moore added that his Down Royal bumper winner last week, ‘Me Too Please’ is entered for the online sale of horses on Wednesday.
Banbridge trainer, Jerry Cosgrave, having watched two of his graduates win at the highest level at the Cheltenham Festival, recorded success in the hunterchase, when ‘Big Leg Up’ with Simon Cavanagh aboard, won the contest in a canter. The winner caught the eye improving before four out, travelling well and giving a bold jumping display to lead over the last, where favourite ‘Saint Benedict’ fell when beaten.
Cosgrave said: “He’s massive and he stays. He wouldn’t be the fastest in the world, but stays and gallops. He just laid back off it and they went too fast. He dropped him in well because there was no point in going after it. He has scope to burn and he is a serious horse to jump altogether. He has been working brilliantly and I did expect a good run today.”
The locally trained, ‘San Lorenzo’ (150s to 40/1) attempted to make all in the opener, but was headed at the final flight finishing third. Gold Cup winning jockey Jack Kennedy on ‘Stranger Danger’ attempted to get a run up the inside at the last, as ‘Gelee Blanche’ challenged wider, however Kennedy was able to switch to the outside close to home and prevail.
Stable representative, Ian Amond said: “He had a bit of experience with the two runs over hurdles and the better ground suited him well. He stays at it well. It’s nice to get him off the mark. He looked in a bit of trouble at the last, but he picked up well in the straight and stayed going. He’ll go for that final in Punchestown.”
Class told in the Rated Novice Hurdle, when Mark Walsh dictated from the front and made all to score on the Ted Walsh trained, ‘Pure Genius’. The winner (5s to 11/4 ) always travelled ultra well at the head of affairs and readily held the challenges of ‘Bold Enough’, which raced second and ‘Mitchouka’.
Walsh said: “He settled well in front and did it well. He won over three miles at Punchestown, he stays and he jumps. He’ll make a nice chaser next year – he’s a fine big, scopey horse and he’s not short of pace. He loves jumping. Maybe Punchestown (next); Fairyhouse is coming up in two weeks time and might be a bit quick for him.”
The James Nash trained, ‘My Manekineko’ was produced late with Mikey O’Connor aboard – leading at the last and keeping on best on the climb to the line in the handicap hurdle.
O’Connor said: “He is some servant. He still loves his job and that’s a great sign in a horse. There seems to be plenty more races left in him going off that run. I sat on him the other day and he was flying, so I thought he would take the beating today. The ground was in his favour. James (Nash) was confident.”
‘Springfield Lodge’ was left in the lead when the front running ‘Drummullagh Rocky’ crashed out four from home in the handicap chase, but having been clear, had to dig deep to hold ‘Mullaghmurphy Blue’ close to the line and supply jockey, Jordan Gainford with a double.
The John McConnell trained debutante, ‘Drumbear’ with Ben Harvey aboard, made virtually all to land the bumper beating off all challengers during the race.
McConnell said: “We thought he was a nice horse. He’s very big and a baby and he is just going to get better.”