Another Excuse has answer

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The Independent Online
THE Irish bandwagon rolled on here yesterday when Another Excuse and Feathered Gale gave the raiders a one-two in the day's richest race, the Marstons Pedigree Midlands Grand National. And although the crowds at the little Staffordshire course were a far cry from the Cheltenham hordes, the winner's owners, a vocal nine-man syndicate, gave their hero a repeat of the Cork anthem "On the Banks of My Own Lovely Lee" as he returned in triumph.

The four and a quarter-mile contest in soft ground was a war of attrition up front as Nazzaro, Brackenfield and Merry Master cut out the pace for two of the three circuits, and as that trio began to feel their efforts, Brendan Powell slipped Another Excuse, trained by Eugene O'Sullivan, into the lead in the back straight.

Coming round the home turn with four to jump the only danger was Killeshin, who had made ground stealthily, but Another Excuse, an eight-year-old son of Mandalus, was still going strongly in the lead when the favourite came down two out.

Feathered Gale, from Arthur Moore's yard, plugged on into second place a distance adrift, with Moorcroft Boy third and Nazzaro fourth.

O'Sullivan's two previous winners in Britain included Lovely Citizen in the Cheltenham Foxhunters four years ago. He said: "I told Brendan to lead two out and nearly had a heart attack when I saw him go on so early. But he had plenty in the locker had the other horse stood up. Has the second finished yet?"

Another Excuse, for whom his owners turned down a substantial offer earlier this week, and Feathered Gale are likely to meet again in the Irish National next month.

There was an early boost to the Cheltenham form when Even Blue, fifth to Sun Alliance Chase winner Nahthen Lad on his previous outing, made all to win the Dermot Dunleavy Novices Chase in the hands of Don McCain. The eight-year-old, one of only two horses in Tommy Black's Oswestry yard, jumped like buck throughout and ran on well to repel Lord Gyllene over the last two fences, and thoroughly justified his trainer's decision to miss a re-match with the big guns last week.

"I had doubts about the distance", said Mrs Black, "And thought there were probably easier places to find out if he stayed than Cheltenham."

Garrylough is bound for Aintree after turning the Tattersalls Mares Chase final into a procession. The daughter of dual Champion Hurdler Monksfield was eased down in coming home 11 lengths clear, and her trainer, David Gandolfo, said: "She's tough, and she's improving."