Wednesday 20 November 2019

'Catch me if you can' a jubilant Carberry shouts out to Culloty

Leopardstown was, as usual, packed to capacity for the 2004 Lexus Chase. The variety of bars on three levels of the main stand were doing a lively business and people were crammed into the Tote hall on the lower level.

Long queues formed at the hot beef roll counter. The three restaurants at the upper levels were full and, outside, punters milled around the betting ring.

They were well wrapped up to protect themselves from the cold, but the skies were bright, with lots of blue streaked with cloud.

There was furious action in the betting ring. Despite the fears expressed about the ground and Best Mate's cut face, punters would not be put off.

He opened in the betting as evens favourite, but was shortened to odds of 9/10. Salmon had opened at 2/1, but by the time the horses were at the start, his odds had grown marginally to 9/4.

As the flag fell, Cloudy Bays took off at a sprint and Paul Carberry chose to stay tucked in behind the field, tracking Jim Culloty on Best Mate.

It was the start of what Carberry would later describe as, "one of the best rides of my life."

Best Mate hit the first fence hard, but recovered, while Salmon was jumping for fun. Carberry had a broad smile on his face for the entire three miles and, with three fences remaining, he and Salmon jumped into the lead.

They began to pull away before the second-last fence, leaving Rule Supreme to contest second place with Best Mate, but the Willie Mullins horse fell at the last fence.

Culloty tried to rouse Best Mate, but Salmon was already sprinting clear. Close to the line, with the roar of the crowd reaching unprecedented levels in the stands, Carberry looked over his right shoulder, surprised to see Culloty labouring on Best Mate.

With his right hand outstretched, he beckoned Culloty and Best Mate on -- "catch me if you can," he seemed to be saying.


The crowd went wild with delight. In the parade ring there was pandemonium. The noise that greeted Salmon was ear-splitting.

Trainer Michael Hourigan and the owners were beaming. Salmon's groom, the trainer's daughter Kay, had tears of joy in her eyes.

Carberry, who was not often expressive when the racing was done, was whooping and hollering.

Photographers fell over each other trying to record the celebrations. Ireland's champion had come good again. Hourigan had been right all along.

Later that evening, as he prepared to fly out for a holiday in the sun with his wife, Ann, Hourigan reflected with quiet satisfaction on the day -- his belief in Salmon had been justified.

Irish Independent

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