Tribe is Ladbroke master

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The Jenny Pitman-trained Master Tribe ended a 10-year drought for British stables in the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown yesterday when scoring a narrow victory over the home-trained Black Queen.

Barnbrook Again, trained by David Elsworth, landed a gamble in the inaugural running of the Ladbroke in 1987 but since then the British raiders have had a poor record.

Held up, as Lady Arpel and Centaur Express cut each other's throats by setting a suicidal early pace, Master Tribe, who finished fifth to Barathea in the 1993 Irish 2,000 Guineas, was brilliantly produced by his jockey, Norman Williamson, to lead at the final flight.

However, sitting in behind him at the last, having made stealthy progress from the home turn, was Black Queen. And Master Tribe had to pull out all the stops on the run-in to hold on by a head. The front two pulled six lengths ahead of third-placed Penny A Day, one of a trio in the race trained by Mary Reveley. Last year's runner-up Family Way was fourth. His owner J P McManus's other runner, the 5-1 favourite Khayrawani, was well placed on the home turn but faded to finish sixth.

Mrs Pitman, who has a cold, remained in Lambourn, but her son and assistant Mark said: "Master Tribe was always travelling. He was going so well down the back I had to pinch myself. Every time he has got beat there has been a valid excuse for him and we have never lost faith in him."

Master Tribe, who was freely available at 33-1 earlier in the week, was returned at 18-1 and paid 26-1 on the Tote.

Disrupted by the cold weather, Mrs Pitman took Master Tribe to Wolverhampton for a gallop last week to build him to peak fitness for today's race.

"We took him to Wolverhampton and it was there that my mother caught her cold. It has gone on to her chest now and that is why I was called into service today," Pitman added.

"I feel very sorry for Warren Marston, who has done all the work on this horse, but the owners said they wanted someone with experience of the course, and it has paid off."

Master Tribe owed his place in the line-up to Ladbroke's public relations officer Mike Dillon, who first had to endure some heavy criticism from Mrs Pitman for his suggestion.

"I saw Jenny at the St James's Palace the day before the entries were made and said that our race would be ideal for him," explained Dillon. "She said: 'Don't be ridiculous,' and absolutely coated me from top to toe. But the next day she rang me at 7.30 in the morning and said I might have a point."

Williamson had been in the winner's enclosure half an hour earlier after Edward O'Grady's Time For A Run gained an impressive 10 lengths win in the McManus colours in the Pierse Leopardstown Handicap Chase.

l A British bookmaking industry starting price was returned on all the races at Leopardstown after last-ditch talks to avert a strike by on-course bookmakers failed yesterday morning when talks between the Irish National Bookmakers Association and the Irish Horseracing Authority broke down after just five minutes.