Ponmeoath storms to Kerry National glory

ERIC MCNAMARA enjoyed the biggest domestic success of his career when saddling Ponmeoath to land the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel yesterday.

The previous highlight for the Co. Limerick handler came on foreign fields when Strangely Brown won a Grade 1 Hurdle at Auteuil in France in June of 2005.

“I have been coming here since I was knee-high and it is a race I have always wanted to win”, exclaimed McNamara.

Dashingly ridden by Paddy Flood, Ponmeoath stormed ahead going to the second last and never gave any indication he would flinch when the need was greatest.

Ballycullen Boy, in the care of McNamara’s neighbour, Maureen Danagher, produced the performance of his young life to fill second.

He jumped immaculately for a horse in his first handicap and was taken to the front six out by David Casey.

But Flood stalked him to the straight and Ponmeoath was always proving the stronger over the final two fences.

“This has been the plan since he ran at Cheltenham in March”, said McNamara. “When Conor O’Dwyer won on him at Limerick one day he said he’s not the best horse I’ve ever ridden, but is the nicest.

“He jumped like a buck today and Paddy gave him a fabulous ride. The plan now is to go for either the Munster National at Limerick or else wait for Cheltenham in November.

“I don’t think he will ever be an Aintree horse, he’s too small, the Irish National would be more his game.”

Flood, who was riding a first ever winner for McNamara, commented: “He jumped from fence to fence, it was a super spin.

“I’m delighted, having missed a winner here on Monday (Finns Cross). I had an abscess in my tooth and am on antibiotics.”

Ponmeoath is owned by the four-member Jolly Up Syndicate, one of whose members is former hurler, John O’Halloran, who won an All-Ireland when Cork shocked Kilkenny in 1966.

Quintana, carrying the colours of Brendan Ferris from Beaufort, near Killarney, looked a horse with a future, following a fine performance in the Schering Plough Animal Health Veterinary Maiden Hurdle.

Making his seasonal debut and having a first pop over flights, he stormed ahead going to the second last to beat Spaceman decisively in the hands of Sean Flanagan.

Trainer, Dusty Sheehy, reported: “I couldn’t understand the price he was, we took 12-1 this morning and will be going home with a right few quid.

“He’s a real horse with a great engine. We will go the novice route with him and he will stay hurdling for the season. He’s a big horse and will make a chaser in time.”

Pat Smullen took his tally for the season to 79 when enjoying an armchair ride aboard Westlake in the Ladbrokes’ Conditions Race.

Surprisingly easy to back on track, after being a strong order in the morning, Westlake completed a hat-trick of victories with the minimum of fuss.

Taken straight into the lead, the blinkered son of Sadler’s Wells lengthened in style in the straight to beat Cool Touch unextended by three and a half lengths.

Said Smullen: “Putting blinkers on helps me to ride him. He has had two easy wins now and that should do his confidence a power of good.”

Westlake’s initial success, of course, was in highly controversial circumstances at Leopardstown.

Continuing, Smullen said: “I left him sling along at the five furlong pole and he really enjoyed himself, he was only in second gear.”

Speaking from home, Dermot Weld indicated that the Finale Stakes (Curragh) or the Trigo Stakes (Leopardstown) would be next.

Current champion, Declan McDonogh, continues to chase Smullen and he moved onto the 62-winner mark when giving Oriental Melody the full treatment in the Ballygarry House Hotel Median Auction Maiden.

Kevin Prendergast’s daughter of Sakhee was slowly into stride and was nearer last than first after a furlong.

But she looks to have a real future, on the evidence of the way she responded to McDonogh’s urgings and was well on top in the closing stages.

Quinmaster was the one most punters wanted in the Kerryman Maiden hurdle and he hardened from 11-8 to corresponding odds-on.

It seemed plain sailing when Ruby Walsh gave him the office to lead going to four out. But Quinmaster found nothing for pressure in the closing stages and Archie Boy and Shane Jackson were much too strong from the last.

A tasty gamble went astray on Pom Flyer in the Seamus Mulvaney Handicap Chase when he was backed from 8-1 to 7-2 clear favourite.

Pom Flyer was cantering early in the straight, but soon began to struggle and had no answer to the sustained challenge of French Accordion.

Orpailleur followed his recent win at the Curragh when making all for Niall McCullagh to easily land the Tom Browne Memorial Handicap.

The Mullins brothers dominated the Bumper with Willie’s Dual Gales and Katie Walsh, a 20-1 shot, getting up in the shadows of the post to beat Tony’s Massey Shaw.

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