National joy turns to grief for Chief Oscar connections
TRAGEDY marred the Toals Bookmakers Ulster Grand National yesterday when gutsy winner Chief Oscar suffered a heart attack after the line at Downpatrick.
The 16/1 chance jumped with zest throughout and, having led his rivals into the straight, dug deep under Andrew Lynch to take the prize by a neck from Bally Wall for local trainer Brian Hamilton.
Connections' joy soon turned to dismay as the nine-year-old stumbled to the ground and it was soon evident he would not be rising to his feet.
"The vet said he probably ruptured an artery and had a heart attack," Hamilton said. "He's just such an honest horse and he gave his all. He has won three times around here, it's just such a horrible thing to happen."
Noel Meade's Gloonan Hill gained his first success at the 11th attempt in the Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle under Tim Carroll. The 8/1 chance had most of his rivals in trouble a long way from home and stayed on strongly to score by two lengths from favourite Mary's Little Vic.
Meade completed a double when Nina Carberry made a winning comeback aboard the 4/9 favourite Jim Bowie in the closing bumper. Carberry had to work hard to hold off Romantic Lead but the pair kept on well for a one and a quarter-length win.
Rossdara justified favouritism (9/10) in the EBF Mares Novice Hurdle for Tom Cooper and Barry Geraghty, while the Gordon Elliott-trained Nedzer's Return followed up on his recent win at Fairyhouse when he came home two lengths in front of Donati in the hunters chase.
The Peter Meegan Memorial Handicap Hurdle went the way of 10/1 shot Ilikeyou for brothers Mark and Luke McNiff, while Colin McBratney's Mighty Massini (11/10 favourite) took the novice chase under Paddy Flood.