It was massive boost for his trainer, Dessie Hughes, who is currently recuperating, following a major operation.
Hughes was represented by his daughter, Sandra, who said: “Dad is very well after the operation and was out on the gallops this morning. He will be back in a couple of weeks.”
White Star Line was given a superb drive by Andrew Lynch, who only got the ride after his intended mount, Go All The Way, missed the engagement due to the ground.
The nine-year-old was last in the early stages, but Lynch is a cool customer and he gradually worked White Star Line into the race.
Said Lynch: “Half way down the back he threw some great leaps and they got him right into contention.”
White Star Line powered ahead off the home turn and then surged right away to beat gallant top weight, the Galway Plate hero, Carlingford Lough, by five lengths.
For both Lynch and Hughes it was a first ever success in the National. It was also the first winner Lynch has ever ridden for Hughes.
Sandra Hughes said: “He (White Star Line) deserved that, he has been knocking on the door, his class came through today.”
The winner carried the well-known colours of Patsy Byrne, who is a London-based contractor, but a native of Duagh, just five miles from Listowel.
Byrne is probably even better known in greyhound racing and trained the winner of the English Derby, Ballinderry Ash, in 1991. He also co-owned the dog with Prince Edward of the British Royal family.
Lots Of Memories, one of only three horses trained by Paul Fahey at Monasterevin, Co Kildare, put up a fine performance to land the Ballygarry House Hotel Novice Hurdle.
He travelled and jumped beautifully through the contest for Shane Butler and was cantering all over the opposition when easing to the front approaching the second last.
He was still on the bridle rising to the final flight, but made a shocking blunder and was almost on the floor.
Butler picked him up as fast as he could, but Lots Of Memories was then marginally headed by Silver Tassie.
He fought back strongly, however, and was a hard-earned neck to the good at the line. “I have never hidden my admiration for this horse”, exclaimed Fahey.
“This is the first step and I think there will be more steps to come. A Grade 3 at Limerick over two miles and five will be next.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Craftsman was all the rage in the Listowel Arms Median Auction Maiden, finding 2-5 from 4-6, and the money was well invested.
He tracked the leaders, until Joseph O’Brien made his move in the straight, sending the winner ahead inside the furlong pole to score by two lengths.
Said Joseph: “He will handle a little ease, but the ground is very testing out there. He has plenty of pace and will have no problem dropping back to six, on nicer ground.”
The O’Brien team completed a double when Eye Of The Storm followed his promising run at Galway last week by easily taking the Listed Edmund And Josie Whelan Memorial Listowel Stakes.
Inis Meain tried to make all, but Joseph decided that wasn’t for him and allowed the winner to ease past with over three furlongs to run.
Inis Meain tried to rally back in the straight, but the bird had flown and Eye Of The Storm was nicely clear at the line.
Commented Joseph: “Things didn’t go right for him at Galway. He ran off the first bend, lost six lengths and it cost me the race.
“It was his first time travelling left-handed, so we weren’t sure about that. I went on when I did because there was no pace in the race.”
It is a long way from Tyrone to Listowel, but the journey paid rich dividends for Andrew Oliver, who’s Stony Grey landed some nice wagers in the Seamus Mulvaney Handicap.
Stony Grey was on offer as high as 10-1 morning prices and taken from 6-1 to 4’s on track.
He was certainly given an enterprising drive by in-form Chris Hayes. The pilot concluded the pedestrian gallop was no good to his partner and powered him to the front after half a mile.
It was superb thinking, with Stony Grey picking up all the way from the turn in to win decisively in the end.
The layers got a screamer in the MSD Animal Health Maiden Hurdle, with the Paddy Colville-trained 25-1 shot, Asockastar, sweeping though late to beat The Mooch and the flattering Pumbaa.
“We’ve always thought a bit of the horse, but it has taken time to figure him out”, declared Colville. “He stays well and we will tip away with him now.”
Andrew Latta guided John Kiely’s Ivy Gate to victory in the Bumper, but the real talking point was the performance of third placed, Chute Hall.
Tom Cooper’s charge, ridden by Mikey O’Connor, was a big gamble through the day, going off a very tight 5-4 shot.
But he found all the trouble that was going and was only ninth turning in, before staying on when the contest had been well decided.
Connor King struck for the first time at the meeting when Cash Or Casualty got the best of a desperate last furlong tussle with Canary Row and Footprint in the Exchange Inn Handicap.
* Yesterday’s attendance was 26,444 compared to 25,940 last year.