The Toals Bookmakers Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick last weekend produced a thriller with a photo needed to decide the winner.
The Gordon Elliott trained Riverside City – owned by JP McManus – was declared the winner beating the locally trained Man With Van.
Two local runners – Heavenly Brook and Keep On Track – took the field along and were at the head of affairs for most of race while the winner still had five horses in front of him going to the last. However, on the uphill climb as the others stopped it was the first pair that battled to the line.
The winning Co Meath trainer, who was completing a double, said: “I wasn’t sure about the trip but Davy (Condon) gave him a lovely ride. He dropped him in and took his time. He jumped a bit left over the last two fences.
“I am delighted as that’s my first Ulster National (the trainer having won the Aintree National in 2007 with Silver Birch). He could go to the Punchestown Festival for a long distance race there.”
Davy Condon, who was recording a Downpatrick double, added: “That’s my first winner for JP and we said we would hunt away the first two circuits. I had plenty of horse left but he was slow at the second last. He got a good jump at the last though. The horse dug deep.”
Larne trainer Stuart Crawford looked set to gain consolation in the Ulster’s Real McCoy Chase with Ardmillan looking the winner at the last but was collared close home by Town Pond. The first and second horses were partnered by twin brothers Ger and Anthony Fox.
The JP McManus owned, Salsa Sensation trained by Ted Walsh was delivered with precision by the trainer’s jockey son Ruby to easily land the opening maiden hurdle.
The winning trainer said: “He handled the track well and confirmed the promise he had shown at Leopardstown (finished third). He’ll be a lovely three mile chaser in time.”
The big race day at the local venue attracted a bumper turnout of almost 5,000. The complexion of the rated hurdle changed dramatically at the penultimate flight when Sailors Warn fell bringing down Massini’s Trap with the pair in contention.
Gordon Elliott, leading trainer at the course last season, supplied the 1-2 in the race with Knight’s Parade beating Cape Glory.
Elliott said: “He was lucky as he was hampered. He’s won four on the bounce now for the boys and will keep going over the summer.”
It was only on Sunday evening that Barry Geraghty got confirmation he had a hairline fracture in his leg.
Feel The Air was an appropriately named winner with the excitement building in advance of the National – the winner trained at Sligo by Mark McNiff and partnered by Derek Fox.
McNiff said “I thought she had improved enough to reverse placing (previously finished runner-up to winner). She’ll mix hurdling with the flat and go for a mares handicap next.”
Banbridge-based top amateur, Stephen Clements, easily won the hunterchase on the Jim Dreaper trained Lord Fingal, while former top jockey turned trainer Adrian Maguire and his son, Finny, in the saddle combined to deny favourite Lip Service in the concluding bumper.