The seven-year-old, trained by Bunny Cox near Dundalk, was a desperately unlucky third in a finish of heads last year but made up for that this time with a decisive four-and-a-half lengths victory. The first prize of pounds 34,700 was rich compensation indeed for his owner, Robert Sinclair, who exclaimed ecstatically: 'This is the best day of my life, this horse is very close to my heart.'
Atone was followed in by Arctic Weather, Judicial Field and Derrymoyle for a clean sweep for the home side. The first of the invaders to finish, in a race run in driving rain and wind, was the 10th-placed Land Afar.
Satin Lover was plunged on from 11-1 with Coral in the morning down to 4-1 by flagfall. However, the seventh British- trained favourite in the last nine years - only Barnbrook Again has been successful - faded after the penultimate obstacle to finish 15th. Of the other challengers Welshman was 12th, Kilcash 20th, Royal Derbi 21st and Nahar 24th.
Kevin O'Brien kept Atone well out of any potential trouble - he was one of the chief sufferers in the rough 1993 running - at the rear as the lightweights Keppols Prince and Simenon took the field along. By half-way one of the British challengers, the John Webber- trained Land Afar, had joined issue, Peter Hedger's Kilcash had the rail in fourth place and Nigel Tinkler's Satin Lover was shadowing the leading group and moving comfortably.
Land Afar jumped the second-last flight three lengths clear of Derrymoyle, chased by Satin Lover and Judicial Field. Kilcash, runner-up last year, was now going backwards.
But then off the final bend Atone came with a swooping run on the outside, with O'Brien sitting holding as much of a double handful as a man can at the end of two miles in boggy conditions. Atone took it up before the last and was never in danger of defeat by the strong- finishing Arctic Weather.
Adrian Maguire, who flew to his native Ireland from frosted-off Haydock, was out of luck on Judicial Field in the big race but had a winning spare ride on Buckboard Bounce in the day's principal chase.
At home the only surviving jump meeting was Warwick, where another re-routed rider, Richard Dunwoody, replaced Jonothan Lower on three of his boss Martin Pipe's runners and won on them all. Honest Word did enough in beating Comedy Spy handily in the Burton Hill Novices' Chase to earn consideration for the Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham.Reuse content