Beef or salmon, the first of the pretenders to Best Mate's Cheltenham crown to emerge from summer wraps, failed to overcome a massive weight concession and ring-rustiness as he finished only fifth on his seasonal debut in the Munster National at Limerick yesterday. The eight-year-old, Ireland's top-rated staying chaser last season, travelled just behind the leaders for more than two of the three miles, was left behind as eventual winner Colca Canyon kicked for home and stayed on again in the straight as he caught his second wind.
It was a workmanlike, rather than sparkling, display, but his trainer, Michael Hourigan, was by no means downcast and the chestnut remains second choice, at around 10-1, at this early stage to dislodge the triple champion. "I was pleased with that," said Hourigan, "and that is what counts. To give nearly two stone and more away to seasoned and fit handicappers was a tough task and I didn't really fancy him to do it." Beef Or Salmon, who finished fourth in the most recent Gold Cup, is likely to have his next outing at Down Royal early next month.
"He had a good old blow," said yesterday's rider, Timmy Murphy, "but he never backed off racing and saw it out to the end." Colca Canyon, ridden by Robert Power and trained by Jessica Harrington, stayed on to beat Risk Accessor by half a length.
Over at the Curragh, Aidan O'Brien regained his hold on the Beresford Stakes when Albert Hall made all the running to beat Merger by half a length, with Brian Meehan's charge Saint Jordi third. Albert Hall, a son of Danehill who cost the Ballydoyle team 510,000 guineas as a foal, showed admirable determination to repel the runner-up's persistent challenge through the final quarter of the mile contest and earn a 25-1 quote for next year's Derby.
"A lovely horse who is still raw," was O'Brien's verdict. "Jamie said he was only getting into his stride at the line. We'll have to see how he is before deciding whether or not to run him again this season." None of O'Brien's previous six successive Beresford winners hit the heights at three, unlike the last two victors before yesterday, the John Oxx pair Alamashar and Azamour.
Another of Ireland's jumping celebrities, Solerina, acquitted herself nobly on a foray on the Flat. The seven-year-old mare, a winner 12 times over hurdles, was caught only by 16-1 shot Essex in her attempt to make every yard in the Irish Cesarewitch. There were British wins in the two six-furlong Listed races on the card, from tough Mick Channon-trained Bibury Flyer in the juvenile contest (it was her 19th outing), and from Striking Ambition (Roger Charlton) in the older horses' event.
In Milan, Saeed Bin Suroor celebrated his 37th birthday with Godolphin's ninth Group One success of the year, in the Premio Vittorio di Capua. The mile race is probably the softest of its status in Europe, but Frankie Dettori-ridden four-year-old gelding Ancient World, who beat fellow-raiders Majestic Desert and Hurricane Alan, can now take his place on the roll of honour alongside Doyen, Sulamani, and co.
The German-trained mare Registana made virtually every yard to win her second successive Velka Pardubika cross-country chase in the Czech Republic. The sole British challenger, Ferdy Murphy-trained Luzcadou, was still in contention when he refused five out, distracted by a loose horse.