Easter of abstinence pays off for McNamara
BLUESEA CRACKER upheld the trend of Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National successes for outsiders at Fairyhouse yesterday when storming home under a determined Andrew McNamara.
The tall Limerick rider, who celebrates his 27th birthday later this month, had existed on slim rations over the Easter holiday after being booked by Cloyne, Co Cork, trainer James Motherway for the 25/1 heroine.
Looking pale but quite content after the Easter Monday highlight, McNamara's dedication saw him put up just 1lb overweight at 10-4 on the winner, which finished runner-up to Ballytrim in the Leinster National at Naas last month.
Running for the seven-member Note The Link Syndicate that includes breeder Sean Murphy, the daughter of Buster King got a dream run through the 26-runner field to lead two out from a fading Will Jamie Run.
Successful in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase last Christmas at Leopardstown, Oscar Time was closing on their outer and this pair had the issue between them heading to the last fence.
Despite her pilot losing his whip and the mare steering an erratic course before producing another fine, decisive jump, the €141,000 prize was heading for Cork as trainer Motherway literally jumped for joy.
"I skipped a heartbeat or two going to the last fence and then jumped six feet into the air when she landed safely. Andrew is a cool rider and waited to the last minute before going for home."
"I walked the track around midday and was really worried about her getting the trip in that heavy ground. It's a very emotional win for me," added James whose grandfather Jimmy led up the 1939 Irish National scorer Shaun Peel.
Twice placed in the Fairyhouse spectacular in recent seasons, McNamara revealed that his passage to victory was incident-free in front of 13,127 spectators who saw just 11 horses complete the race.
"The mare settled lovely and, apart from one mistake, was jumping well in a handy mid-division position most of the way. I wasn't in any hurry but she was long two out, then idled and ran about before the last."
McNamara is now looking forward to partnering Northern trainer Colin McBratney's Galway Plate hero Ballyholland at Aintree on Saturday in the John Smith's Grand National.
Next year's Aintree feature could be the long-term target for Oscar Time, according to regular rider Robert Power, whose fears that Martin Lynch's stable star might not be suited by the ground were realised.
It was only by a head that Power's mount held off Whatuthink in the hands of young Pat Mangan for second money with veteran Cheltenham winner A New Story running his usual fine race for fourth under another Cork teenager Adrian Heskin to reach the National frame for the fourth time.
Not so fortunate were the connections of fancied local pair Saddlers Storm, which came down when hampered six out, and second-fence casualty Across The Bay, whose rider, Paul Carberry, injured his knee. The luckless David Casey, who was aboard Saddlers Storm, later suffered a heavy fall from the fatally-injured An Cathaoir Mor at the second last in the Arkle Bar Novice Handicap Chase.
Due to partner Snowy Morning for his boss Willie Mullins at Aintree on Saturday, Casey was removed to James Connolly Memorial Hospital at Blanchardstown suffering from a suspected fracture of a pelvic bone.
Meanwhile, in Cork, teenager Richie Deegan made a dream start with victory on his very first ride, Theyellowlough,.
The 19-year-old from St Mullins in Co Carlow made light of his inexperience with a confident performance on the five-year-old, owned and trained by Paul Nolan, in division one of the Cork & Waterford Mares Point-to-Point Flat Race.
Deegan sent Theyellowlough (10/1) to the front inside the final furlong to beat Jinglealltheways by two-and-a-half lengths.
Rapid Artist, backed from 33/1 down to 14/1, never gave his supporters an anxious moment as he took the Coolmore NH Sires Hunters Chase by 19 lengths from Outlaw Pete.