Racing: Walsh maintains Ireland's momentum in National slog
Sunday 19 March 2006
The Irish carried on where they left off at Cheltenham when another emerald raider plundered yesterday's main prize, the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter. The eight-year-old gelding G V A Ireland, ridden by the Festival meeting's leading jockey, Ruby Walsh, took the muddy marathon, worth £61,974, by four lengths, beating Ossmoses after a tussle over the last half-circuit.
After the four-mile slog the 5-1 favourite's springheeled leap at the final obstacle was a sterling effort. It sealed victory for Francis Flood's charge, who was carrying 16lb less than his rival, with L'Aventure plugging on for third place, 14 lengths adrift, ahead of Victory Gunner.
"We don't get four-milers in Ireland," said the winning trainer's son, Francis jnr. "We thought he was crying out for the trip. He jumped well and he'd be one for next year's Grand National."
The champion Flat jockey, Jamie Spencer, showed his mettle as he took the first Group race of the European season, the Winter Derby on the sand at Lingfield, on the 8-1 shot Sri Diamond. The six-year-old was badly drawn, on the outside of the 14-runner field, but Spencer kicked smartly out of the stalls to get to the front, disputed a slow early pace and went for home early in the straight.
Grand Passion and Nayyir, who found trouble on the rails inside the final furlong, finished well but Sri Diamond had enough in hand to hold on to take the £56,780 Group Three prize. "That was just a beautiful ride," said the winning trainer, Sylvester Kirk. "I thought our fate was sealed when I saw the draw, but Jamie has got him just where we wanted."
Spencer made it a double when Derby entry Pound Sign, from the Michael Bell stable that took last year's Epsom showpiece with Motivator, outclassed his rivals in the maiden.
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