Alfa does the business again

ALFA BEAT, successful in the race a year earlier, did the business again when storming to victory in yesterday’s Guinness Kerry National at Listowel.

In 2010 he was trained by Charles Byrnes, but was bought at the sales at Doncaster for £75,000 and is now in the care of Shark Hanlon, who was enjoying his biggest success to date.

He is owned by American, Irvin S. Naylor, after Hanlon had been asked by Tom Foley — who trains for Naylor in the States — to find a possible English National horse.

He nominated the grey and Foley decided that, as Hanlon had picked him out, then he may as well train him. Naylor is the champion National Hunt owner in America.

Fosters Cross, considering the heavy ground, set a scorching pace and it was highly unlikely that could be maintained for anything approaching three miles.

When Fosters Cross hammered into the fifth last his race was run as Barry Geraghty, who was in the plate last year as well, allowed Alfa Beat to lead.

And, basically, nothing could get in a blow after that. Bideford Legend, trained by Byrnes and a well-backed favourite, tried to get to the winner but never really promised to close him down. The irony of the whole thing will hardly have been lost on Byrnes.

“I’m delighted, he did it great”, exclaimed Hanlon. “I was told he wanted good ground, so we planned to go wide and Barry gave him a super ride.

“I only have the horse a few months and the plan was always to come here and then go for the English National. He will have one run before Aintree.”

“When Tom’s (Mullins) horse (Fosters Cross) made that mistake, I was worried we were in front too soon, it’s great to win this race.”

For Geraghty it was a third success in the National, having also been aboard Monty’s Pass in 2002. Said Geraghty: “I didn’t really fancy him on the ground. He jumped brilliantly and blinkers definitely sharpened him up.”

Lenabane stayed on to claim third while the Galway Plate heroine, Blazing Tempo, ran a cracker in fourth, having gone up 12lbs for that Ballybrit victory. Her rider, Ruby Walsh, reported: “I thought we’d win three out. She jumped and travelled great, weight will stop a train.”

What A Charm, who won the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival in March for Arthur Moore, is now back in the care of John Oxx and put up a game display in the Ladbrokes’ Listowel Stakes

Superbly handled by Ben Curtis, What A Charm tried to make all, but appeared to be in trouble when headed before the home turn by Unity.

But this is a tough mare and she rallied strongly, was in front again early in the straight and kept going in terrific style to easily beat Celtic Soprano.

Oxx, who had three in the race, said: “I’m delighted with her. The conditions are very testing and she was the only one of mine I thought would handle the ground.

“She has been working well, but I couldn’t be sure she was ready. I got her for two races and now she could go for the Finale Stakes at the Curragh. We will freshen her up and then she will return to Arthur.”

Six were due to face the starter in the Ballygarry House Hotel Novice Hurdle, but only three met the engagement.

The most important of the defectors was Tavern Times, expected to go off market-leader, who was injured in transit.

Noel Meade’s Original Option, the outsider of those left, made most of the running and was far too strong for uneasy favourite, Bullock Harbour, over the last two flights

Said Meade: “I thought the ground was too soft, but there were so few runners I left him take his chance.”

“This has now opened a few doors and he will keep going for another while anyway.”

Leatherwood, a big disappointment at Cork previously, was a somewhat surprise favourite in the Listowel Arms Hotel EBF Maiden.

Backed from 3-1 to 9-4, he obliged under Declan McDonogh. Leatherwood led from the start and had little trouble shrugging of the token challenge of Foot Soldier in the straight.

McDonogh completed a double when driving Toufan Express to victory in the Exchange Inn Ballybunion and Kevin Broderick’s Bar Listowel Handicap.

In the process Toufan Express foiled some potentially lucrative wagers on runner-up, Miranda’s Girl, taken from 16-1 to half those odds.

Miranda’s Girl made a brave attempt from the front, but was gradually worn down by the winner, who was nicely in control through the last hundred yards.

The Seamus Mulvaney Handicap Chase saw Clarkey and Alan Crowe sweep to the front coming away from the third last to easily beat Jigalo.

Clarkey is trained by Christy Roche and he had a quick double when Code Of The West took the MSD Animal Health Maiden Hurdle.

Tony McCoy, on a flying two-day visit, finally had a turn when driving the winner to get the best of the battle with Littletown Lass.

Code Of The West did edge to his left from the last, but there was never the remotest possibility of a change at the subsequent stewards’ inquiry. McCoy, however, was found guilty of careless riding and suspended for two days.

Shark Hanlon, on the mark in the National with Alfa Beat, rounded off a dream afternoon when Murchu outclassed his rivals in the Bumper.

Partnered by his owner, Paul McMahon, Murchu led half a mile from home to easily beat Local Celebrity.

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