Not content to emerge from the fields of Athenry to provide an act of outrageous giantkilling at the Cheltenham Festival, Paul Gilligan drew his newly honed sword to the same effect on home soil yesterday.
In five years the Co Galway trainer has notched just 34 victories, but more than half have come this season and the tally now includes two at the highest level after Jadanli followed Berties Dream into a Grade One winner's circle.
Neither was fancied, at least not by those outside their stables at Cahercrin. Berties Dream was 33-1 when he won last month's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and Jadanli 25-1 as he upstaged contenders from some of Ireland's major yards in yesterday's Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. But the eight-year-old is held in enough regard at home to have been considered for this afternoon's Irish Grand National, even though he had contested only three chases before yesterday and notched his first victory over fences just six weeks ago.
"He won well the last day," Gilligan said, "and we thought about the National but as he's a novice we decided to leave it this time. It will be the long-term plan for next year, though."
The gelding, one of 25 under Gilligan's care and nursed back after an injury-induced two-year absence, was ridden, like Berties Dream, by Andrew Lynch. Both horses now have the allegedly bigger guns in their sights again, at Punchestown later in the month.
Yesterday's was not a pretty victory. In gruellingly testing conditions at the Co Meath track just two of the 10 who set out completed the two and a half miles; Jadanli came in 23 lengths ahead of another outsider, Deal Done. Behind them Shakervilz was remounted for third after a slow, tired lurch over the last fence ejected Ruby Walsh. At the same obstacle Roberto Goldback fell and lay exhausted and winded for some minutes before regaining his breath and feet, and after blazing the trail Let Yourself Go was too leg-weary to be asked to jump it.
So the faint of heart should not tune in to today's climax at the Fairyhouse festival, the 139th running of Ireland's richest chase. Due to be contested by 30 runners over three miles, five furlongs and 22 fences, the marathon will be a proper war of attrition for man and, particularly, beast. A couple of long-priced mudlark lightweights, Will Jamie Run and Stewarts House, are suggested as a sporting interest.
Three from Britain travel to do battle in the mud but, notwithstanding Niche Market's victory for Bob Buckler 12 months ago, the raiders' record has been as miserable one. Just eight have succeeded in taking a prize which is defended with understandable zeal; today's race is worth some £130,000 to the winner.
The race's roll of honour is embellished by some of the greatest names of Irish racing, including Prince Regent, Fortria, Arkle, Flyingbolt and the sole triple winner, Brown Lad. The performances of Arkle and Flyingbolt bear close inspection; in 1964 Arkle carried 12st to a length and a quarter victory over Height O'Fashion, who was in receipt of 30lb and two years later his younger Tom Dreaper stablemate shouldered 12st 7lb and beat the same good mare two lengths, giving her 40lb.
Desert Orchid, easily the best of the British victors, was another to prove that class will out when he scored under 12st, giving between 26lb and 28lb to 13 rivals in 1990. There have been less distinguished winners, though, even bizarre ones. If Brown Lad was the Irish National's equivalent of Red Rum, then possibly its Foinavon may be found in Alike, successful in 1929 when ridden by Frank Wise, who was missing three fingers and rode with a wooden leg.
The focus on the Irish National with the real thing in mind has sharpened since Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde followed up at Aintree the following year and, indeed, Niche Market is towards the head of the betting for Saturday's extravaganza, for which one man's hopes were extinguished yesterday. No sooner had amateur Liam Codd been booked to partner Character Building than came the news that the John Quinn-trained grey, a 20-1 shot, had been bought by David and Patricia Thompson. The owners of Cheveley Park Stud, who bought Party Politics shortly before his 1992 National victory, intend to have their new horse professionally ridden.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Fabalu (3.35 Chepstow)
Ran very well until in the amateurs' four-miler at Cheltenham, fading to sixth after his stamina ebbed. Back to a more suitable trip today and proven in heavy ground.
Aspro Mavro (4.35 Yarmouth) Still a maiden at four, but perseverance and the step up to middle distances may pay off. Produced a solid effort on his seasonal debut.
One to watch
Sprinter Barney McGrew (M Dods), a creditable fifth on his seasonal debut at Doncaster, looks sure to pay his way once the weather turns and he gets better ground.
Where the money's going
Snowy Morning was the best backed Grand National horse yesterday, 16-1 from 20-1 with Ladbrokes, ahead of today's penultimate confirmation stage.
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
Oscar Papa (5.55 Plumpton)Reuse content