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Follow The Plan tears up script

IRISH 50/1 chance Follow The Plan silenced both the Aintree crowd and some of Britain's top chasers in the Betfred Bowl yesterday.

It's hard to remember a more muted reception for a Grade One winner at a major meeting -- not that it mattered to trainer Oliver McKiernan or jockey Tom Doyle.

Follow The Plan had scraps of form which entitled him to take his place, taking third behind Nacarat in an inferior renewal a year ago and going on to lift a Punchestown Gold Cup in which there were only four finishers.

His efforts this season left a little to be desired against the likes of Ryanair winner Riverside Theatre, the rampantly progressive Hunt Ball and Gold Cup fourth Burton Port, but he emerged a comfortable winner after a wonderfully patient ride from Doyle.

Riverside Theatre, the 7/2 favourite, was pulled-up a long way from home and when Doyle had crept up the inside of Nacarat with two fences to jump, he stole an unassailable advantage over the strongly ridden Burton Port.

Just before many of the other runners had competed at Cheltenham, McKiernan's nine-year-old was fourth in a handicap chase at Gowran Park.

"Maybe he was a bit fresher than the others and the way he'd been working at home there was no reason to believe he'd not have a bit of a shout," said the Dublin trainer, who also has a building business.

"The ground drying out also helped him. We followed the same plan as last year when he was third in this so I imagine we'll go on to Punchestown with him."

Doyle added: "He's not a horse that wants to be in front too soon but we ended up being there too soon. He jumped so well I had to.

"He's been a good horse to me, that's three Grade Ones he's won and he probably hasn't got the credit he deserves. He shouldn't have been 50/1 anyway."

Nicky Henderson, trainer of Burton Port and Riverside Theatre, said: "I know (Riverside Theatre) won the Ryanair but he has gone backwards since winning at Ascot and he was never travelling.

RISEN

"I think next season he might even go King George, Cheltenham and then bed."

Third-placed Hunt Ball, which has risen an unprecedented 6st this season, remains a credit to trainer Keiran Burke, who said: "It was another good, solid run. We know the dream is still alive and we can aim him at the good races next season."

Meanwhile, the imperious Big Buck's created a slice of racing history in the BGC Liverpool Hurdle. Andy Stewart's nine-year-old won his 17th race in succession, one more than the legendary Sir Ken managed in the 1950s.

The Paul Nicholls-trained superstar was winning the Grade One event for the fourth year in a row, adding to the four World Hurdle triumphs he has achieved at the Cheltenham Festival.

Big Buck's also managed to win a novice chase at this meeting back in 2008, so was winning on Merseyside for the fifth straight year in all.

Gone are the days when Ruby Walsh used to look briefly in trouble with a famed 'flat spot', and he coasted round the three miles before beating Crack Away Jack -- having his first run for Tom George -- by nine lengths.

Smad Place, the second favourite, fell in the back straight, as did Restless Harry, which brought down Won In The Dark. All horses and jockeys emerged unscathed.

"It was straightforward today," Nicholls said. "He jumped and travelled and did everything right. We're happy with him.

"Now he's got older it pays to give him a race between the Long Walk and Cheltenham, so the Cleeve is ideal. We'll follow the same route."

Walsh added: "The easy part is riding him. He's an incredible horse. He's skated in today. It wasn't as competitive a race as Cheltenham.

"He's bolted in and the last couple of years he's been better here than at Cheltenham. We're lucky we've never got to the bottom of him. He's never been extended over hurdles. I would say there's more there."

Irish Independent