Alfa Beat and Barry Geraghty combined to secure back-to-back renewals of the Guinness Kerry National in emphatic style at odds of 20/1 at Listowel yesterday.
Saddled by Charles Byrnes 12 months ago, the blinkered seven-year-old was providing his new handler John 'Shark' Hanlon with the biggest success of his career here, having been purchased by the Carlow trainer on behalf of American-based owner Irvin Naylor for £75,000 in May. Tasked with sourcing a horse for next year's Aintree Grand National, Hanlon identified the grey as the most suitable target, and yesterday's triumph in the €96,400 showpiece cancelled out Naylor's initial outlay.
In an ironic twist, Byrnes was responsible for the runner-up in the three-miler this time, as his 4/1 favourite Bideford Legend went down by three and three-quarter lengths. Alfa Beat, which hit the front with just under a circuit to go en route to supplying Geraghty with his third win in the race, was subsequently given a quote of 33/1 for Aintree by Boylesports.
"That was unreal," said a delighted Hanlon, who capped a memorable day with a 67/1 double courtesy of Murchu in the bumper. "I felt Alfa Beat had improved since I got him and the only doubt here was the testing going. He probably is better on better ground, but Barry went wide for the best of it.
"The plan was to come here and then go for the English National, so that's what we'll do. He will have one run before then."
Lenabane kept on for third, as Blazing Tempo took fourth under Ruby Walsh.
Clarkey (8/1) emulated Alfa Beat's feat when landing the two-mile chase for the second year in a row in the hands of Alan Crowe, initiating a 33/1 double for Christy Roche, whose Tony McCoy-ridden Code Of the West won the maiden hurdle. McCoy earned a two-day ban in the process, having been found guilty of careless riding.
In the Ladbrokes Stakes, Listowel's first ever Listed race, Ben Curtis and What A Charm combined to deliver John Oxx his sixth winner in the space of a week.
The outsider of Oxx's three runners in the race at an SP of 12/1, What A Charm was further enhancing her pedigree here, having already won the Fred Winter Hurdle at Cheltenham in March for Arthur Moore.
"She may have one more run for me in the Finale Stakes at The Curragh," Oxx reported afterwards. "And she will go back to Arthur Moore for the winter then."