Hefty fine and ban for amateur rider

THE first division of the Bumper at Cork yesterday saw Irish racing dragged through the mire.

It centred on two horses trained by Charles Byrnes - Alpha Royale and Laetitia - who finished first and second respectively.

Victory went to Alpha Royale, after Laetitia’s rider, Michael Purcell, had sat motionless for most of the straight.

It was a completely unedifying spectacle, and left a bitter taste in the mouth for many punters.

Alpha Royale led off the home turn and was hard driven all the way up the straight by Martin Ferris. For most of the last two and a half furlongs or so it simply looked a matter of when Purcell pressed the button on Laetitia. But that button was never subjected to any great pressure by the 28-year-old, who is an auctioneer from Tipperary, based in Limerick.

He did make a couple of token efforts to slap the mare and she did swish her tail for one of the blows. Essentially, however, Purcell did little or nothing and he was, to put it mildly, less than energetic when he should have been going for everything.

A large crowd gathered round the winner’s enclosure as Alpha Royale returned in triumph. “How long are you going to get for the second one” roared a bookmaker’s representative at trainer Byrnes. “You should be over here (in the number one berth)” shouted another at Purcell as he came in on Laetitia.

The stewards took positive action, even if it did take some 75 minutes after the last to arrive at a conclusion. Purcell, found guilty of not attaining the best possible position, was suspended for 50 race-days and fined €2,000. Laetitia was suspended from running for sixty race-days.

Byrnes stated he wasn’t happy with Purcell’s riding, in the latter stages, and his explanation was noted. At The Races, which showed the contest throughout Britain and Ireland, went to town. Presenter, Matt Chapman, read out a list of stinging e-mails, every one scathing of what went on. For an Irishman it made for unpleasant listening.

Paul Carberry, having his first ride back since hurting his wrists in a fall at Fairyhouse eleven days earlier, guided Father Matt to an easy success in the Kanturk Maiden Hurdle.

Successful in a bumper on the track last month, the King’s Ride gelding was a strong order in the market, 11-10 from 7-4.

He gave his supporters one heart-stopping moment, blundering badly at the second last when well clear.

Otherwise it was plain sailing. Father Matt made every yard of the running, giving a fine exhibition of jumping.

Carberry picked him up as quick as a flash at the back of that penultimate obstacle and Father Matt strode away to beat Sir Frederick unextended by seven lengths.

Commented trainer, Noel Meade: “He may run in a three mile novice hurdle at Punchestown next Saturday. The plan for next season is obviously to go chasing.”

The Killetra Handicap Hurdle was won in fine style by the Colman Hennessy trained Out The Gap, a thoroughly consistent sort.

He cruised into the lead between the final two flights for Tommy Treacy to beat Arc En Ciel a comfortable length and a half, the runner-up having rocketed home.

“He’s come back cut in front, so will be out for a few weeks”, reported Hennessy. “I might try and get him ready for the Galway Hurdle, he will return next season in a couple of handicaps and then go over fences.”

Paul Nolan’s Savitha looked different class to her rivals in the Glantane Maiden Hurdle, but was easy to back in the ring, 11-10 from early offers of odds-on.

She did her job in style, cantering on the heels of the leaders, until John Cullen eased to the front approaching the second last.

Savitha did weave about a bit in the closing stages, but didn’t have to be asked any sort of question to score by three and a half lengths.

Said Nolan: “We were a bit worried about the ground, she should be able to win a handicap off her current mark.”

Colm Murphy’s Dusty Doolan followed up his Navan success with a game display to win the Newmarket Handicap Hurdle.

Strongly handled by Robert Power, Dusty Doolan led before the straight and found plenty when Polly’s Dream threatened danger.

Said Murphy: “The ground is the key to him and he could go to Punchestown now.”

Regarding stable star, Brave Inca, Murphy said: “He goes to Punchestown, but we are keeping our options open. If the ground is really good, and that’s unlikely, he will take on Solerina over three miles, or else it will the two-miler against Harchibald.”

A good weekend for the Walsh family was completed when Willie Mullins’ newcomer Connaught Hall took the second section of the Bumper.

She was partnered by 20-year-old Katie Walsh, daughter of Ted, who saddled Jack High to land the valuable Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday. Katie eased her charge ahead under two furlongs down to beat Hurricane Carter cosily. She travelled to Cork from the three-day eventing at Ballindenisk and this was her sixth success.

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