Florida means business Irish chaser throws down the gauntlet to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner

A week after See More Business opened the defence of his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown with a stylish win at Wetherby, Florida Pearl, Ireland's best chaser, followed suit yesterday at Down Royal on the long road to the rematch at Prestbury Park next March. The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old jumped immaculately to beat Dorans Pride in the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase, the feature event at Northern Ireland's first official festival of racing.

A week after See More Business opened the defence of his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown with a stylish win at Wetherby, Florida Pearl, Ireland's best chaser, followed suit yesterday at Down Royal on the long road to the rematch at Prestbury Park next March. The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old jumped immaculately to beat Dorans Pride in the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase, the feature event at Northern Ireland's first official festival of racing.

Paul Carberry, riding the gelding for the first time in public, let him drop back and lob along as Ferbet Junior, one of last year's best novices, blazed his customary trail. To the young grey's credit, against a couple of high-class seasoned campaigners, he stayed in front until the fifth fence from home. Four out Dorans Pride and Florida Pearl ranged alongside and the trio were in the air together, but thereafter the contenders were reduced to a pair and then, as Florida Pearl took his old rival's measure for the fourth time in as many meetings at the penultimate obstacle, just one.

The giant white-faced bay popped over the last and crossed the line a comfortable three lengths clear. Afterwards Mullins owned that his main emotion was relief. He said: "I didn't realise how apprehensive I was until I got there up onto the stands and started watching. And when Ferbet Junior got 15 lengths out of the gate it didn't help. I was very pleased to see him over the last but things could not have gone better; the rider and horse got on fine and he jumped well. Though he did have a good blow after the race, he was as straight as he could be at this stage of the year. I didn't want to come here for a £100,000 race half-baked, get beaten and have a hard time. As it is I can now ease off a bit and let him relax."

Mullins has no illusions about the task facing Florida Pearl this year. Violet O'Leary's gelding, touted by some as the next Arkle, did not live up to expectations and could finish only third in the Gold Cup. He said: "See More Business is obviously better than ever and we've got 17 lengths to make up. And although we've probably improved, by the look of it, he has too."

The chasing stars drew a huge crowd to the County Down track from both north and south of the Irish border in what proved a hugely successful launch to the new venture. The festival is the brainchild of by the Northern Ireland Events Company, a government-backed body whose aim is to bring top sport to the six counties. And although Down Royal is steeped in and surrounded by political history - the course, lying in the Lagan Valley, received its first Royal subsidy from King Billy when he was on his way to the Battle Of The Boyne back in 1690 and the infamous Maze prison is visible from the grandstand - racing is the perfect medium for cross-community harmony.

It was entirely appropriate that Florida Pearl and Dorans Pride should take the first two places in Northern Ireland's richest race, for they were both bred in the oft-troubled province. But no one cares whether they are Protestant horses or Catholic horses.

Mike Todd, the Down Royal manager, said: "People here are bound by the love of a good horse and the idea is to start projecting Northern Ireland in a more positive manner ."

The news that Shaamit, the 1996 Derby winner, and the durable Posidonas will both stand at Ulster studs next year can do nothing but help.

Tony McCoy, one of Ulster 's other famous sons, was on duty in Britain and made a successful mid-afternoon dash from Chepstow to Wincanton to complete a double on two of Martin Pipe's fine young prospects. Having partnered Lady Cricket to a consummately easy victory in the Rising Star's Novices Chase at the Welsh track, he had to work only slightly harder to boot Wahiba Sands clear of Chai-Yo in the Tanglefoot Limited Handicap Hurdle.

But there was sadness at Sandown in a sport which sometimes demands a harrowing price. A day after the sport lost one of its major players, French Holly, in a schooling fall, the chaser Eulogy, mainstay of Richard Rowe's small yard, lost his life in a crash on the course where he had won the Whitbread Gold Cup six months ago.

At Doncaster the November Handicap, the last feature of the domestic Flat season, went in a finish of heads to the lightly-weighted mare Flossy, who relegated Carlys Quest to the runner-up spot for the second successive year with Lord Lamb, the favourite, a fast-finishing third. But Jack Berry's career as a trainer ended on a low note when his final runner Best Of All was brought down in the ladies' race, an accident which knocked out Beverley Kendall, her rider, for 15 minutes and put her in hospital.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'