JOSEPH O’Brien’s remarkable domination of the week’s feature events continued as the trainer made it back to back triumphs in the centrepiece of the Harvest Festival, the Guinness Kerry National, as the brave Busselton and J.J. Slevin prevailed in a dramatic finale.
In a race that contained its share of incident the focus will rest on the final fence where Hewick took off marginally in front but got in too tight and gave Jordan Gainford no chance of staying on board. This handed the race back to Busselton who duly availed of the opportunity by holding Recite A Prayer by just under three lengths.
Possibly Hewick held the upper hand at his time of departure and the Galway Plate winner ran a monster race off a mark of 163, but ultimately the day belonged to Busselton (13/2) who is a fitting testament to his exceptional trainer’s talents. O’Brien mightn’t be as heavily involved over jumps as he once was but he remains a notable force in this sphere and he has excelled with the Michael Burke-owned Busselton who defied his tender age of five with a gritty and professional display that would have befitted a horse twice his age.
A winner of a beginners’ chase on this card last year, Busselton had since run 10 times and won on three occasions while never finishing any worse than fourth. Thus his credentials as a tough, hardy and reliable competitor were well established and he produced a typically straightforward effort.
J.J. Slevin got Busselton to the front at the outset and the pair never relinquished their advantage in a race which lost a key player when the 5/1 favourite El Barra departed with a circuit to run. For much of the race the leader was tracked by his stablemate Fire Attack but inside the final mile it was clear that Hewick was going to present the leader with a major test.
Hewick was the first to come under strong pressure but he raised his effort in splendid style to come with a powerful challenge in the straight and as the last fence loomed it looked as though a major double could be at hand for Shark Hanlon’s charge. However, with the final fence proving to be his undoing Busselton was left with a handy lead over Recite A Prayer and he stuck to his task well to defeat that rival by just under three lengths. The winner’s stablemate Darasso ran a superb race to take third while Gin On Lime turned in a good effort to take fourth.
“It was a great performance,” said the trainer’s representative Brendan Powell. “I don’t know what would have happened if Hewick had stood up but our horse jumped super. He jumps and he stays and he seems to handle any ground. For a five-year-old he’s as hard as nails.
“I know he had a nice weight on his back but he had been on the go for over a year, over hurdles and fences. He’s a very honest horse and it’s great. It’s a shame the owner wasn’t here. Darasso ran a blinder too. I thought he was going to be involved turning in but maybe the quicker ground caught him out as the others quickened away turning in and he just kept staying on.”
A delighted winning rider commented: “For only a five-year-old to do that is unbelievable. He jumped from fence to fence and made them work and come at him. Joseph’s horses are just very game and tough and very hard to pass.
“Hewick was giving us a stern test coming to the last but he paid the penalty after getting in too tight to the last. I’m just delighted for the horse as he gives his all every day. This is massive for me as I was just beaten in it a couple of years ago and my grandad isn’t well at the moment so this is for him.”
Indications afterwards were that Hewick could be aimed at the American Grand National. The race was marred by an injury to Rock Road who appeared to go badly wrong when pulling up before the fourth last fence.
GORDON Elliott has a nice novice hurdler on his hands in Amir Kabir who made it two wins from three starts over timber in the Seamus Mulvaney Bookmakers Novice Hurdle.
The Stephen O’Connor-owned gelding was sent off at 6/4 to avenge his Galway Festival defeat at the hands of Flaming Moon and he did so in likeable fashion. Davy Russell’s mount got the second last flight all wrong but horse and rider recovered quickly and a much better jump at the last sealed a three-length victory.
“I felt if he’d jumped he would have won in Galway and we’ve done plenty of work on his jumping since then,” stated Elliott. “He’s a nice horse and only for the second last he would have won a good bit easier. He’ll have no trouble with easier ground.”
Elliott and Russell then added to their haul when Motown Maggie (100/30) made a winning start over fences in the Ballygarry Estate Hotel & Spa Mares Novice Chase.
With the 11/10 favourite Darrens Hope struggling a long way from home Motown Maggie looked to have everything covered from the third last and she eased clear off the last bend before deftly negotiating the final two fences to see off Optional Mix by just under five lengths.
“She’s a grand mare and did that well for a horse having her first run over fences,” declared Elliott whose charge carries the colours of David Barnard. “I’d say she might be one for Cheltenham in October and beyond that we’ll see but I’m not sure she would be one for real winter ground.”
After enduring his share of near misses over the last few days Denis Hogan got back amongst the winners as stable stalwart Macgiloney sprang a 25/1 surprise to defy top weight in the Devon Inn Handicap Hurdle over three miles.
Now a winner of 10 of his 46 starts, this thorough stayer relished this trip on good ground and Daniel King’s 7lb claim was another notable factor in this triumph. The Michael Moloney-owned gelding jumped to the front at the last and kept on doggedly to hold Perceval Legallois by a nose.
Lots of promise in Willie’s two winners on Wednesday
AS expected Kerry National day began with a winner for Willie Mullins as the dual bumper winner No Risk No Fun availed of a good opportunity on his jumping debut in the McSweeney Brothers Maiden Hurdle.
Odds of 2/9 suggested that the Walters Plant Hire-owned five-year-old was going to be in a different league to his rivals and he dominated this race at all stages for Paul Townend despite making a few errors. Several of his rivals attempted to close in before the straight but No Risk No Fun had any amount in hand for the closing stages and drew clear to account for the 40/1 chance Pro Bono by 10 lengths.
“I was very happy with how he finished and he looked to have plenty left in the tank. If he keeps progressing he could be a horse for the Royal Bond a little later in the season. We’ll look for something in about a month’s time for him,” stated the trainer.
Mullins increased his haul for the meeting with All The Others in the Listowel Vintners Association Flat Race.
The Luke McMahon-owned six-year-old was sent off the 11/10 favourite for his debut but victory looked improbable for much of the race as he appeared to struggle at stages through this two and a half miles. The son of Well Chosen found his best stride for Patrick Mullins in the straight though and got on top to carry the day by three and a quarter lengths. Indications afterwards were that All The Others could now be given a break.
There was a nice effort in the offing in the two-and-three-quarter-mile Brandon Hotel Beginners Chase where Henry de Bromhead’s Life In The Park made a good start over fences under Rachael Blackmore.
The Barry Maloney-owned gelding was making his first appearance since landing a handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival and supporters of the 11/8 favourite would have been on good terms with themselves from some way out. Life In The Park looked to be holding Perfect Attitude from before the turn in and he went on to account for that opponent by four and a half lengths.
“He jumped a little bit right everywhere so that can be improved on but it was a great performance,” declared the rider. “He quickened up the straight well and it’s great to get that. I think he was bought with a chasing career in mind. It’s not been an easy road for anyone down in Henry’s and we’re all still thinking of him.”