Alfa Beat keeps on rocking for Byrnes
The remarkable victory march of Alfa Beat since joining Ballingarry trainer Charles Byrnes this summer reached a new level in Listowel yesterday when the heavily penalised grey carried Barry Geraghty to a memorable Guinness Kerry National triumph.
Stepping up in grade once more in this €160,000 Grade A handicap, the bargain buy for young Galway-born, Limerick-based owner Barry Healy defied a combined rise of 45lb in the ratings since his debut success for the astute Byrnes at Roscommon in June.
Former champion Geraghty, who captured the Guinness promotion in 2002 aboard Monty's Pass, tracked a wide berth down the back straight in search of a better ground before joining Galway Plate hero Finger Onthe Pulse turning into the straight. He took charge after two out and kept the 6/1 chance fully motivated as Tony McCoy tried his best to pull the race out of the fire aboard the gambled-on Dancing Tornado.
A couple on untidy leaps before a serious blunder six out, just as the tempo was being increased by freewheeling eventual third Finger Onthe Pulse and Archie Boy, left McCoy with what proved an impossible task, hard as he tried to recover the leeway on favourite Dancing Tornado, whose long-absent stable companion and top weight Mossbank had been withdrawn earlier in the day by their trainer Michael Hourigan.
Thus, the spoils went to the Byrnes' yard instead and the successful trainer recalled his own misfortune in the Kerry National of 2003 when that locally owned warrior Cloudy Bays exited two out when looking certain to score, forfeiting the prize to Hourigan's Native Performance.
"We had our share of bad luck here seven years ago with Cloudy Bays, so it was great to win it this time. It was a brave decision by Barry to go wide down the back and it worked for us, though you have to feel sorry for Davy Russell who was claimed for Mossbank," said Byrnes.
Geraghty, who broke his nose later in the session when Mahrajaan came down in the handicap chase, pointed out that it hadn't all been plain sailing for Alfa Beat.
"He was struggling a little on the ground, which was softer than he wanted, but we came home surprisingly well. This fellow is still young and can improve again, although it was a tremendous training performance by Charles to win five in a row."
One Cool Tornado stamped himself as one of the better staying novice hurdlers of the campaign when responding to an all-out Ruby Walsh drive to get back on the winning trail for Paul Gilligan's Co Galway yard in the Ballygarry House Hotel Novice Hurdle.
Gilligan's subsequent Cheltenham Festival hero Berties Dream was runner-up to Time Electric on drier ground in this event a year ago and the long-term plan is for One Cool Tornado to take the same route to the Cotswolds in both November and March.
Owned by Offaly's Kings & Rovers Syndicate, Walsh's mount will travel to Cheltenham first for the same race in which Berties Dream was second to Tell Massini as a prelude to the major fixture next March for either the Neptune or Bartlett Hurdles.
Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen enjoyed a winner apiece to keep the pot boiling in their championship tussle as the lightly raced pair Clearwater Bay and Qubuh battled through the ever-softening ground on the Flat track in commendable fashion.
Encountering a testing surface for the first time, Galway maiden scorer Clearwater Bay needed all of champion Murtagh's strength and determination to resist the persistent challenge of a quietly backed Icon Dream and justify favouritism in the Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes.