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Johnny's hex on the beach

Even despite the weather, the crowds still flocked to the beach yesterday as the unique race meeting on the strand at Laytown held its annual fixture.

Some of our top riders from every code were in action, including Flat racing's Johnny Murtagh, Pat Smullen and Fran Berry, as well as jumping's Paul Carberry and David Casey while of the amateurs, Robbie McNamara, Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh, were on show.

Smullen kept up his quest to be champion jockey in Ireland yet again by partnering a rare Laytown winner for his boss, Dermot Weld, keeping his nephew Joseph O'Brien at bay on his first ever ride at the venue.

Johnny Murtagh was out of luck on his first visit to the track for four years, but already has returning in 12 months time chalked down to try, yet again, to partner his first ever winner at Laytown.

Murtagh has managed to ride winners at every other Flat track in the country apart from the beach.

He came close yesterday on the Ger Lyons-trained Romeo's On Fire only to finish third in a race won by Lyons' other runner, Cosmic Breeze.

The winner of that claiming race was ridden by South African Keagan Latham, who has taken a real shine to the Laytown surroundings after riding a winner there last year also, and for the winning trainer, it was a welcome victory.

"It has been a frustrating season for us due to the standards we set ourselves," revealed Lyons.

"We had such terrific seasons in the last couple of years and sold everything last year.

"Things were just a bit slower this year and all our two-year-olds are three-year-olds for next season.

"But that brings us on to 20 for the season and we hope to have 30 before it finishes out.

"Little fish are sweeter!"

Lyons began his quest for 30 just over an hour later when partnering winner number 21 of the campaign and completing a Laytown double in the hands of his very capable amateur rider, Andrew Duff.

The most impressive winner of the day, Dunne Grand, claimed the Hibernia Steel QR Race by a somewhat facile four and a half lengths from Academic Accolade back in second.

Weld and Smullen's earlier winner came as Northern Rocked justified favouritism to deny the O'Brien-ridden Prayer Boat who was the principal market challenger and who hit the minimum 1.01 in running on the Betfair.


Laytown 2010 will be a meeting remembered fondly by the Duffy family based in Co Laois as trainer Shane saddled his first ever winner under rules as Hello Man took the opening race of the unique fixture.

Owned by the Listowel-based Lehaghaidhanspraoi Partnership, Hello Man is set for that venue next week, and was given the ideal prep run under champion apprentice Gary Carroll.

"I bought the horse at the horses-in-training sales for the boys from Listowel for a bit of craic and that's what it's all about," admitted Duffy afterwards.

"My father Paddy is 70 years of age and rides him out every morning and is the main man.

"I have a 32 per cent strike rate with my point to pointers (10 winners) but that is my first winner on the track.

"I'm delighted Gary rode it too as I virtually taught him how to ride when I was in Christy Roche's for eight years and he used to come in!"

David Marnane's excellent run of form continued as He's Got Rhythm provided him with a 1-2 in the Ladbrokes.com QR Handicap under Robbie McNamara.

The Limerick-born amateur had his first ride for Marnane at the Galway Festival, a shock 25/1 winner, and maintained his 100pc record for the trainer by producing the 9/2 shot to win cosily from the Katie Walsh-ridden Qadar back in second.

"That was a great result, although it's a pity they didn't dead heat!" joked in the in-form Marnane.

He added: "I'd love to bring him back here again next year if we get the chance, but he might be heading for the sales now, I'm not sure. The second horse ran a blinder also."

Jockey Seamie Heffernan can do no wrong at the minute and he got the best out of Michael Browne's Under Review who was the biggest priced winner of the day, returning at odds of 20/1 in the O'Neill Sports Handicap.