Racing: Native Upmanship helps keep Irish on top

The Grand National momentum is squarely with the Irish.

The Grand National momentum is squarely with the Irish. Following Florida Pearl's distinguished victory in the Martell Cup on the opening day of the meeting, there was further success for the visitors yesterday when Native Upmanship won the Melling Chase and then Ireland supplied three of the first four home in the only race over the huge National spruces, the Topham Trophy.

Native Upmanship was back in third at the final fence of his Grade One contest as Wahiba Sands and Fadalko wrestled for superiority, but, on the flat, he surged to the front. "The race went super," Conor O'Dwyer, his jockey, reported. "He was still a little slow over the fences but the horse has the heart of a lion. Native Upmanship never, never misses a battle and he is as tough as old boots."

The nine-year-old may be surprised when he sees the photographs. Arthur Moore, in keeping with a tradition initiated by his father, Dan, after L'Escargot won the 1975 National, the winning trainer, put his trilby on Native Upmanship's head in the winners' enclosure. "We save the hat for very special occasions and this was a very special occasion," he said. "I'd love to go for the King George at Kempton."

While the spruce was flying and horses capsizing in the Topham, Its Time For A Win continued a purposeful route to carry Ruby Walsh home by six lengths. Monty's Pass was second and Shannon Gale fourth for the Irish. "Having seen the way he jumped round there I must aim to get him qualified for next year's Grand National," Willie Mullins, the winning trainer, said. "He nearly died on me as a young horse. I had him lined up for the Cheltenham bumper, but then he got a virus and, at one time, we nearly lost him.

"I rode the winner of the Fox Hunters' here 19 years ago and I feel it is always a great achievement just to get round over these fences, let alone win a race here."

Jonjo O'Neill collected a further trinket for his Jackdaws Castle stable when Carbury Cross gave him a third success of the meeting in the opening contest. Further glory for the eight-year-old beckons in either the Scottish National or the former Whitbread, the attheraces Gold Cup, at Sandown.

The Top Novices' Hurdle went, for the third consecutive year, to the Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs, when In Contrast followed the triumphs of Ilico II and Phardante Flyer. In doing so he reversed Cheltenham Festival form with Martin Pipe's Westender, who had finished one place ahead when second to Like-A-Butterfly in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Pipe was also denied in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle, when his Tarxien and Stormez filled the places behind Alan King's Stromness. "I made a mistake last year as I didn't have Stromness gelded when he was a bit colty," King said. "He was gelded after Aintree and he has never looked back since." Just as well. He probably wouldn't like what he couldn't see.

Tony Dobbin reached his century for the season when the Cheltenham disappointment Barton made a nonsense of his run in the Arkle by storming away with the Mildmay Novices' Chase. "The Cheltenham Gold Cup next season is the long-term target," Tim Easterby, his trainer, reported.

It was a success enjoyed by none more than the gelding's jockey, Tony Dobbin: "He is just a brilliant horse. Beyond doubt the best that I've ridden."

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