Racing: Ebony win marred by Wild death: Martin Pipe loses a fine young chaser at Fairyhouse while the Flat stars of the future prepare for important trials at Newmarket

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The Independent Online
THE FIVE horses that ran in the Grand National paid for their exertions in the Irish equivalent here yesterday, but it was another chaser, Martin Pipe's Rushing Wild, who paid the ultimate price.

The eight-year-old, second in the Gold Cup a month ago, went from smooth leader to a careering mess in a matter of strides on the second circuit yesterday as he fell victim to fatal internal injuries.

'Richard (Dunwoody, the horse's jockey) felt him go and pulled up immediately,' Chester Barnes, Pipe's assistant, said. 'But he'd broken his pelvis and by the time we got him back he was haemorrhaging. He had to be put down.

'We've had five winners in Britain today, but when something like this happens it just takes all that away.'

The death of one of the sport's most promising young chasers took away from a race that saw Ebony Jane provide Francis Flood with a second Irish National after a span of 23 years.

Flood, who won the Gold Cup with Glencaraig Lady two years after Garoupe's Fairyhouse victory, maintained that the Cheltenham success remains a pinnacle.

Charlie Swan, the Irish champion jockey who rode Ebony Jane (a mare as tough as her name suggests), was similarly unequivocal, but in reverse. 'This is the biggest triumph of my career,' he said. 'This is the big one, it even beats winning at Cheltenham.'

The win also showed that nothing can beat a well-structured preparation. Flood praised his horse's application and staying properties, but also conceded that she was running against beasts debilitated by Aintree's void race just nine days earlier. 'We had a fresh horse going in there today,' he said. 'And that made a difference.'

Royal Athlete, a 10th fence faller at Aintree, again departed early yesterday, and Mark Pitman, the gelding's rider, reported his mount was unusually nervous at the obstacles. 'He hasn't recovered mentally yet,' he said.

Adrian Maguire, who made his credentials for the vacant post as stable jockey to Pipe look even more persuasive with a hat-trick elsewhere on the card, also had a short journey before Cool Ground fell, while another graduate from the Gold Cup, Sibton Abbey, was pulled up after showing little exuberance. The trio of Irish horses from the National, The Gooser, The Committee and Laura's Beau, ran understandably lacklustre races.

Conor O'Dwyer, the rider of Laura's Beau, was just one of several in the weighing room who felt their horses had left behind their pinnacles of effort in Lancashire. 'The ground was not soft enough for me because my horse is best when they're going in up to their heads, but it was the National that did it really,' he said. 'That knocked the edges off him.'

The only Grand National horse to emerge with any honour was John Upson's Zeta's Lad, who finished third here after being pulled up after a circuit of Aintree.

Upson's wrath at the Liverpool debacle was subsequently matched by some Irishmen when he unwittingly mocked Ireland in a post-race interview, and his words yesterday were more carefully scripted.

It would have been easy, and reasonable, to cite Zeta's Lad's abortive National venture as the reason for his tired labouring in the closing stages, but the Northamptonshire trainer was not about to detract from the achievement of the winner.

'My horse ran exactly to his weight from the Thyestes Chase (at Gowran Park in January) with Ebony Jane,' he said. 'At least he beat all the English horses home. I could not be more pleased with him.' Upson was also quick to stress that the only people to approach him at the course were well- wishers. 'The reception has been incredible,' he said. 'I've got an aching right arm.'

His only regret was deviating from his early intention to sidestep Aintree in favour of this race. 'I should have stuck to my original plan and come here and not the National,' he said. 'But we will be back next year.' For Rushing Wild, however, there will be no coming back.

IRISH GRAND NATIONAL (Fairyhouse): 1. EBONY JANE (C Swan) 6-1; 2. Rust Never Sleeps 66-1; 3. Zeta's Lad 11-2 fav 4. Allezmoss 20-1. 27 ran. (F Flood, Grange Con, County Wicklow). Tote pounds 4.90; pounds 1.80, pounds 16.50, pounds 2.30, pounds 5.30. Reverse forecast: pounds 286.40. CSF: pounds 317.06. Tricast: pounds 2,163.76.

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