Fox galvanises Rogue Angel to swoop for National prize
Ger Fox galvanised one more vital lunge out of Rogue Angel to secure a dramatic last-gasp victory in yesterday's Guinness Kerry National.
In gruelling ground, Fox, who missed Road To Riches' 2014 Galway Plate triumph due to injury, cut out most of the running aboard the Gigginstown Stud-owned seven-year-old in the €175,000 Listowel showpiece.
When Paul Townend brought Urano through to lead at the final fence, the partnership looked booked for second. However, the Willie Mullins-trained Urano has never been the most resolute.
He duly failed to put the race to bed and gave Rogue Angel another bite of the cherry. Fox seized the moment to get the dour son of Presenting up on the line by a short-head, three days after his game mount finished second at the track to Kylecrue.
Despite the narrow margin of superiority, the experienced three-pound claimer was sure enough of the outcome to punch the air as soon as he passed the post.
It constituted the biggest win of his career by some way, and it was also a first in the prestigious handicap for all concerned in their current guises.
Rogue Angel's trainer Mouse Morris had won the race as a jockey aboard Black Mac 40 years ago, although, on the race's 70th anniversary, even the renowned Co Tipperary-based handler struggled to recall that success.
"It's longer than I remember since I won it as a jockey," Morris quipped, before adding of yesterday's 8/1 winner. "This fellow probably needed the run on Sunday. He is an out-and-out stayer and got a great ride. He is a horse I thought would win a four-miler at Cheltenham one year and ran very well. I was surprised that he could make the running because he couldn't lie up the other day, which shows that they probably didn't go that fast."
Asked if he was as sure as Fox prior to the photo-finish announcement, Morris, whose Galway Plate casualty Rule The World ran well to be third, admitted: "I honestly didn't know, I presumed we were second; I thought here we go, second and third again!"
"To win the Kerry National is unbelievable," an elated Fox said. "I always had great confidence in the horse. In fairness, he put his head down and did it for me. I couldn't believe how much he found."
Having been 20/1 in the morning, Rogue Angel was well supported from an opening on-course show of 12/1, following some significant withdrawals. In an incident-packed event, Morris's Horendus Hulabaloo fell two-out when tiring, while British raider Cantlow, Lots Of Memories and Owega Star also departed prematurely. Sadly, the favourite Lots Of Memories was fatally injured when he brought down Owega Star at the 12th.
Mullins enjoyed better luck later, with the 1/6 shot Long Dog living up to its brief by giving David Casey a fairytale win on his last competitive ride in the novices' hurdle. Of Casey's 770-plus career wins, few will have come easier than this, as the 39-year-old merely had to steer Long Dog to an emphatic rout.
The popular rider received a suitably warm reception both before and after his swansong outing.
"I probably am a bit old for a jump jockey and recently Willie offered me this position in the yard," he explained of his new venture. "I've been there a long time already so not a lot will change - I just hope I won't be a burden on him!"
"David came to us when he was 17 so he knows our operation," Mullins said of his new recruit, who will accompany Max Dynamite on his Melbourne Cup foray in his role as an assistant.
"We wish him well in retirement. He is a fantastic asset when I go to buy horses as I usually send him to go and ride them. That has been going on for a long time but now I am going to have him full-time."
Barry Connell's Tully East (4/6) was similarly impressive for Alan Fleming and Adrian Heskin in the maiden hurdle, while the Listed Flat race went to Godolphin's Devonshire. Willie McCreery's well-backed 2/1 market leader - third to Pleascach in the Irish 1,000 Guineas earlier this season - will now step back up to Group Three company at Tipperary following her authoritative success in the hands of Billy Lee.