PAT KEANE: Big Game Hunter disqualified in farcical decision

IRISH racing, which has been dragged through the mud since the Saturday of Listowel, reached a new low at Clonmel yesterday.

Mouse Morris’ Big Game Hunter beat High Magic by a head in the Laganore Maiden Hurdle and, astonishingly, lost the contest in the stewards’ room.

An inquiry was called after the winner had nudged his opponent approaching the final flight. The pair jumped the obstacle together and, from that point, there was absolutely no contact between them.

The incident was literally of no consequence and High Magic had every chance on the run-in, but never looked liked getting past Big Game Hunter.

When the inquiry was announced one could be forgiven for thinking it would take, perhaps, five minutes before the all-clear was given.

But it stretched on and on and now we knew the stewards were seeing something which was totally hidden from the greater public.

And then it came, the placings had been reversed. For the stewards to demote Big Game Hunter they had to be sure he had improved his placing.

And that was their conclusion. I’ll venture to suggest it would be difficult to find anyone, anywhere, who would agree with them.

Morris was left utterly perplexed. “This is the most ridiculous decision I have seen in my history of racing”, he said. “This is National Hunt racing, it’s not pussy-cat racing.

“I’m so frustrated, I just don’t know if I will even bother to appeal. I’ll sit on it and then decide.

“They (stewards) had to be certain the result was affected and only God could know that!”

There was simply consternation in the betting ring when the stewards’ deliberations were revealed.

A black day for the game in this country then, when justice clearly wasn’t served.

Cass Bligh was best for money in the www.clonmelraaces.ie Novice Hurdle and never gave supporters any great cause for concern.

Pushed ahead by Ruby Walsh before two out, Cass Bligh lengthened clear to beat Anshan Dreams by five and a half lengths.

Trainer, Adrian Murray, reported: “Ruby says he has a good cruising speed and to step him up to two and a half miles. I don’t know where he will go next, we’ll see what the handicapper does.”

Walsh completed a double when guiding Conor O’Dwyer’s Prosperity Square to a smooth success in the Style Clonmel Festival Handicap Hurdle.

Owned by Owen Curtin from Ovens, Co Cork, Prosperity Square bounded away from The Shepeherd from two out.

“When he (Walsh) gets the hang of it and gets a bit more experience we will throw him up on a few more”, said O’Dwyer, massively tongue in cheek.

“I’m delighted with the horse, it was his first time over three miles. H’e tough, jumps well, and I wouldn’t mind having a few more like him.”

John Kiely, fresh from saddling three winners at Navan on Saturday, did it again when Wise Old Owl followed his win at Listowel with a decent effort in the Irish Stallion Farms’ EBF Captain Christy Novice Chase.

He was about to take Bronte Bay’s measure when that one blundered two out and was soon in total control.

Said Kiely: “He’s improving and loved that ground. He might have one more run and then go on his holidays for the winter.”

One For Joules made a winning debut over jumps in the Kilmore three-year-old Maiden Hurdle.

In front at the last for John Cullen, she stretched away on the flat to easily beat always prominent Lil Ella.

“I thought it would never happen, we have had so many placed horses of late”, reported winning trainer J J Hanlon.

“She should have won at Fairyhouse last week, but was knocked down turning in. We will try and win a flat race with her now.”

Cullen completed a double when driving Pat Fahy’s Gaelic Grounds clear on the flat to land the Glenary Handicap Chase.

Willie Mullins’ Lambro, a big late order in the market, came from off the pace to win the Bumper with plenty in hand.

Brian Hayes and Joe Burns were both suspended for three days for disobeying the starter.


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