Sunday 22 April 2018

Russell jeered by punters after Lieutenant 'stumbles' to surprise defeat

Damien McElroy

For the second time in less than a fortnight, an Irish jumping fixture had to be called off in mid-stream due to false patches of ground after a rain-lashed Fairyhouse suffered much the same fate yesterday as Wexford last Sunday week.

A deputation consisting of the season's leading riders Paul Carberry and Andrew McNamara, with trainers Noel Meade and Dessie Hughes, met the stewards after four of the seven races had been run to voice concerns over the deteriorating state of the course.

By that stage, Davy Russell had been barracked after hotpot First Lieutenant was bogged down in the mud, and Barry Geraghty had complained of holes in the track.

The acting stewards then opted to call a halt after inspecting the worst-affected parts of the circuit.

What had seemed a potentially profitable fixture for Mouse Morris had already gone pear-shaped, with Venalmar being pulled up lame when favourite for the three-mile Beginners Chase, in which stable companion The Hurl exited at the second fence. Then Morris' 'steamer' First Lieutenant struggled home a well-beaten third in the EBF Novice Hurdle.

First Lieutenant's disappointed owner Michael O'Leary and Morris witnessed Russell being verbally abused by some racegoers as he made his way back to report to the stewards that his mount had "stumbled in the back straight and didn't act on the ground."

The favourite clearly lost his momentum heading down from Ballyhack and was never in with a realistic chance of matching main market rival Aughnacurraveel in the closing stages.

Nevertheless it was a fair performance by amateur Mikey O'Connor's mount, which may now be aimed at a Grade Two hurdle at Navan.

Although well-backed favourite Romanesco won for Henry de Bromhead's yard in the opening Beginners Chase, Leon Og (20/1) provided further misery for the punters half an hour later in a similar affair -- as did 50/1 chance Talk About Miltown in the Membership Maiden Hurdle.

Irish Independent

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