Saturday 29 April 2017

Bookies feel the Wrath as O'Neill rises to the occasion

Jockey Lisa O’Neill and trainer Gordon Elliott with Wrath Of Titans after winning the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel Races Don MacMonagle. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Jockey Lisa O’Neill and trainer Gordon Elliott with Wrath Of Titans after winning the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel Races Don MacMonagle. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Johnny Ward

Little-known amateur Lisa O'Neill was undaunted on the big stage as the gambled-on Wrath Of Titans landed the Guinness Kerry National.

Dubliner O'Neill (29) has rarely had rides in races as big as yesterday's €175,000 contest but that deterred neither trainer Gordon Elliott nor owner Michael O'Leary. Riding a nonplussed and confident race on the 7/1 chance, things went pretty smoothly throughout.

The same was certainly not true for Gigginstown's apparently most fancied runner, the favourite Folsom Blue, which ran no sort of race and was pulled up. However, there was no getting away from Wrath Of Titans' superiority.

Surrendered

Closing to challenge Rightville Boy at the last, he was a little untidy and surrendered ground. It says a great deal for how well-treated he was that he still pulled five lengths clear up a short run-in.

"He crept away and got into it at the right time," said O'Neill. "I never was sure until after the last and he was careful at the last but he really picked up for just one smack. I didn't realise he had that much left in him. It was an overwhelming feeling."

Elliott added: "Lisa gave him a real peach. I'm thrilled for her and it's great to repay her a bit for all the work she does. She does some pre-training for me, she works in the office, she will lead one up at the races and she can drive them to the races as well."

Wins like this - in a year that has also seen the axis win the Gold Cup and the Galway Plate - can only strengthen the relationship between Gigginstown and Elliott, who was delighted to provide teenage prodigy Jack Kennedy, from Dingle, with his first Listowel winner.

Carrig Cathal was desperately weak in the market in the novice hurdle but with market leader Screaming Rose flopping and 2/1 chance Oathkeeper falling two out, it opened the door for the 10/1 shot. Kennedy said: "It's special to get a win here."

There was high praise for Billy Lee, whose seasonal tally has already surpassed his previous best. A double embellished a terrific recent run for the Co Limerick native; Willie McCreery, trainer of Champagne Or Water, has been key to Lee's excellent run.

After the well-backed filly landed the Listed contest, McCreery said: "For me, Billy is the best rider in Ireland. From her high draw I just told Billy to drop her out and settle her; and try to pick them off one by one.

"Billy is very kind, especially on fillies, and asks them instead of telling them. That's important to me as it means they improve from race to race."

Asked how his confidence was just now, Lee said: "Sky-high."

Irish Independent

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