Adrian Maguire defied a stomach upset to mark the second anniversary of his partnership with Ferdy Murphy by landing the Singer & Friedlander National Trial at Uttoxeter on Streamstown.
The Irishman has won a host of big staying races on the likes of Ackzo, Paris Pike and Narrow Water since teaming up with his compatriot back in early 2000.
Now the pair have their sights on the greatest long-distance prize of all with Streamstown, whose odds for the Martell Grand National were cut from 50-1 into 20-1 after his hard-fought success in gruelling conditions. But Maguire’s celebrations were muted.
Not only did his illness lead him to give up his remaining rides ‘‘I couldn’t have any fluids beforehand and afterwards I felt very dehydrated and weak so I felt I had to stand down’’ he said.
But he was also hit with a two-day ban for using the whip with excessive frequency, though fortunately the suspension starts a day after he is due to ride King George VI Chase winner Florida Pearl in Sunday week’s Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Maguire had needed to get serious on 14-1 shot Streamstown in the latter stages of today’s three-and-a-half-mile contest as Irish raider It’s Himself (9-1) looked full of running turning for home.
He had cannily saved enough to see off the challenger, who weakened on the quarter-mile run-in, and held on by a length and three quarters, with seven lengths back to 20-1 shot Edmond in third.
Only six of the 15 runners got round in the very testing conditions, with well-backed 4-1 favourite Scotton Green last of the sextet after two early jumping mistakes.
Murphy paid full tribute to Maguire, whose reaction to the ban was: ‘‘The stewards have got a job to do but so have I and I didn’t abuse the horse.’’
‘‘He is a fantastic part of the team,’’ Murphy said of his jockey.
‘‘He was brilliant there and nobody rides a staying race like him.
‘‘He has a big say in how the horses are ridden. He is very clever and he has been around a while. I get the horses ready and he rides them - it is a good partnership
‘‘He is riding absolutely fanatically and he’s a pleasure to work with.’’
Maguire chose Streamstown ahead of stable-mates Birkdale and The Quads and Murphy added:
‘‘He rode out on Wednesday and he stayed with my head lad Ross McKie who usually rides Streamstown out and I think he put him on him.’’
‘‘I don’t see why Streamstown shouldn’t run in the National. He’s a real tough staying horse and he is getting his jumping together.
‘‘He won three races last year but he was a bit novicey. He has been in at the deep end this season but he was fifth in the Charlie Hall and sixth in the Hennessy. Everyone says I have overfaced him but he has got to learn to jump and you can only do that in good races.’’
Streamstown is owned by the Haydock Park National Hunt Partnership and he is likely to return to his ‘‘home’’ course for the De Vere Gold Cup later this month.
Cheltenham beckons for Keen Leader and Native Emperor, who gave trainer Jonjo O’Neill and jockey Liam Cooper a 7-1 double with emphatic victories over hurdles.
The unbeaten Keen Leader (10-11) coped admirably with the heavy ground and earned a tilt at the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle by routing his rivals in the Grade Two Blue Square Novices’ Hurdle.
He cruised through to lead at the third-last flight and sauntered clear for a very easy 19-length defeat of Tarasco, without Cooper having to get at all serious.
‘‘He was taking a good step up in class today and that surprised me,’’ said O’Neill. ‘‘But he loved the ground and the others didn’t like it as much as he did.
‘‘He is in the two-mile-five race at Cheltenham and unless the ground was really fast he would have to run.’’
Native Emperor (100-30) will be aimed at one of the Festival handicaps after following up a recent Warwick victory by taking the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle by seven lengths.
‘‘The handicapper had put him up 11lb and I thought he had gone mad but I can’t say anything now!’’ O’Neill said.
‘‘He is improving - Liam said he travelled better through the race today than when he rode him before.’’
‘‘But he wants soft ground and we are praying it stays soft for Cheltenham.’’
Maguire’s nephew Jason got in on the act by landing the three-and-a-quarter-mile Blue Square Novices’ Handicap Chase on Native Buck.
The winner stayed on dourly to land the €24,675-added contest by a distance and could now be aimed at an eve more gruelling contest.
‘‘He is in the Grand National,’’ said trainer Tom George.
‘‘He stays well, he jumps for fun and he is improving so you never know.’’
Adrian Maguire’s illness cost him a treble as he missed victory in the P M Harris Novices’ Hurdle on Granit D’Estruval with JP McNamara deputising on the Murphy-trained eight-year-old who defeated Haydens Field by half-a-length.