Racing: Bobbyjo the National dazzler

History enjoys Aintree rerun as Carberrys repeat L'Escargot's triumph to land huge Irish gamble

WITH DELIGHTFUL symmetry, the name of the nine-year-old Bobbyjo became the 152nd on the Grand National roll of honour here yesterday. The bay gelding was the first Aintree winner to hail from Ireland for 24 years and provided a unique double for the racing family Carberry from Ballybin, Co. Meath. For he was ridden by the son Paul and trained by the father Tommy, who was in the saddle in 1975 when L'Escargot thwarted Red Rum's hat-trick.

Carberry junior, 25, punched the air in delight as he brought Bobbyjo home 10 lengths clear of the 25-1 outsider Blue Charm, who held Call It A Day (7-1) by a neck. The well-backed Addington Boy was fourth, with two 50-1 shots, Feels Like Gold and Brave Highlander, fifth and sixth of the 18 who finished.

The victory celebrations by the young Irishman - noted for not only his style but also a sometimes reckless dash - continued in less orthodox fashion in the roofed winners' enclosure. Putting Frankie Dettori to shame, he grabbed a rafter and swung himself from the saddle to huge approbation from the jubilant Irish contingent who had backed the horse from 22-1 yesterday morning to 10-1.

Perhaps surprisingly in a sport where children tend to follow in parental footsteps, it was the first father-and-son victory in the National's history. "I was 14 months old when Da won, so I don't remember much about it", said Carberry fils. "But I've seen plenty of videos and heard about it more than a few times."

Carberry's exhilaration was shared by his 57-year-old father, who also exuded a fierce, burning pride. "Just fantastic," he said. "It is a great, great feeling to have done it and then see my son do it as well. But then," he added, as if there was no question the chip would follow the old block, "I was always confident he would do it one day, as long as the right horse came along. And this one is it. A very easy horse to train. And we've had this in mind since he won the Irish National last year."

Bobbyjo, owned by another Irishman, the north London-based publican Bobby Burke, and bought in a deal struck in a Galway bar, had not won a steeplechase since he took that big Fairyhouse contest. He had warmed up for yesterday's task with victory in a hurdle race.

His jockey said: "He felt in great shape on the way to the start. I had plenty of confidence in him and the race went exactly to plan, which was to get him settled, give him a breather and come right at the end."

The field of 32 set off in bright sunshine after a perfect start. But the first disappointment for punters came quickly as Double Thriller, the ante-post favourite but a drifter in the betting on the day, overjumped and fell at the first fence. The horse who deposed him as favourite at 6-1, the mare Fiddling The Facts, lasted longer. She was just behind the leading group and going well when she was caught up in a five-horse pile- up at Becher's the second time. The fence also claimed the chances of Choisty, Frazer Island and Camelot Knight and the life of Eudipe through neck injuries.

Jenny Pitman's last National runner before her retirement, Nahthen Lad, did her proud as he disputed the lead with Blue Charm over The Chair but faded to come in 11th. Last year's winner, Earth Summit, did not have the speed to get into the race and finished eighth, while the runner-up for the past two years, Suny Bay, found the ground too fast and his weight too great and came in 13th.

Carberry steered the bold course down the inner on Bobbyjo, who was foot-perfect throughout. Turning for home with two fences remaining, he still had half-a-dozen in front of him. The number was reduced by one when Merry People crashed at the penultimate obstacle. "I was close enough to him," Carberry said, "but I had enough room to steer a straight course. Then Adrian Maguire [on Addington Boy] cut in front of me and knocked me back a stride. It might have done me a favour. I switched off the rail and he picked up straight away."

The Scottish-trained Blue Charm, still a whisker in front at the last, was giving Lorcan Wyer, an eleventh-hour replacement for his regular jockey, Mark Bradburne, a dream spare ride. Call It a Day was closing, Addington Boy was not yet done with and Feels Like Gold and Brave Highlander were right on their heels.

But it is 494 yards from the final fence to the winning post. On a fresh horse it is a distance a jockey would hardly notice, but at the end of four and a half miles it is a long way. The route is a right-handed drive to a distant gap in the rails that is almost lost against the backdrop of the teeming stands.

The ground is not level and, at this stage, even a slight undulation or change in camber is a challenge to tiring limbs. A tough battle seemed certain as Carberry and Wyer and Richard Dunwoody, on Call It A Day, sat down to ride. But it was over before The Elbow as Bobbyjo sprinted clear and took his place in history.

HOW THEY FINISHED

1 BOBBYJO P Carberry 10-1

(Trained: T Carberry, Co Meath; Owned: Mr R Burke)

2 Blue Charm L Wyer 25-1

(Trained: Mrs S Bradburne, Fife; Owned: Mrs M C Lindsay)

3 Call It A Day R Dunwoody 7-1

(Trained: D Nicholson, Gloucestershire; Owned: Mrs J Lane)

4 Addington Boy A Maguire 10-1

(Trained: F Murphy, Yorkshire; Owned: Mrs B Jamieson)

32 ran. 10 lengths, nk, 7 lengths. 6-1 fav Fiddling The Facts (fell).

Tote: win pounds 13.30; places pounds 2.50, pounds 4.60, pounds 2.10, pounds 3.70.

DF: pounds 216.40. CSF: pounds 228.52. Tricast: pounds 1,725.50. Trifecta: pounds 3,263.90.

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