Willie Mullins ended a 14-year wait and Paul Townend exorcised the memory of two near misses in the Guinness Kerry National when Cabaret Queen produced a performance of pure determination in the week’s feature at the Listowel Harvest Festival.
Winner of the Munster National in 2019 and a fine third in the Galway Plate earlier in the summer, the mare set out in front this time and found a great rhythm. A bold display of jumping ensured that, for most of the three miles on the rain-softened ground, she held her lead with little fuss, but there was late drama as Moyhenna made a play to spoil the party.
The latter closed quickly after the last and, with a strong run down the inside, forced a photo finish. So close was it, it took a few minutes for the result to be announced but, to the delight of the owners, Syndicates Racing, and to Mullins and Townend, Cabaret Queen did just enough to hold on.
“I think the mare was so brave, and Paul was very brave,” said Mullins, whose previous winners of the race were Bothar Na in 2006 and Euro Leader in 2005, both ridden by Ruby Walsh.
“He set out to do what he did, and both rider and horse were very brave. And she jumped out her skin – I don’t think she missed a fence. She got half-lengths and lengths where it mattered, and Paul said to me she hadn’t one iota left – it was a last-gasp win.
“Being so brave it would have been hard to lose it, but it’s tough on the runner-up who ran a cracker. I would have taken a draw coming down off the stand, because I thought we were beaten.” Cabaret Queen’s win completed a double for Mullins and Townend, earlier successful with N’Golo. Only four went to post for the Seamus Mulvaney Bookmaker Novice Hurdle but it provided a real thriller, with three of the four crossing the line together.
Malone Road was the 2-5 favourite to follow up his Kilbeggan win but this was considerably tougher, and he gave best in the tight finish. N’Golo, who looked beaten going to the second-last, rallied to challenge Wajaaha in the closing stages and he got up by a head, with the odds-on favourite just a short head further back.
The Martin Brassil-trained You Raised Me Up got off the mark over hurdles in the Remembering Tommy McGivern Maiden Hurdle. A classy bumper horse and placed in the competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle earlier this year, he made amends for last year’s defeat in a maiden at this meeting with a fine display under Mark Walsh. Brought to challenge in the straight, he led over the last and stayed on nicely to hit the line a couple clear of market rival Run For Oscar, who made a more than satisfactory hurdling debut.
“I was happy with that,” said Brassil. “He probably ran a bit fresh early on but when he got by the winning post he relaxed well. He jumped really well. We’ll target those nice handicaps. He’s not a big, robust horse, so he’ll possibly be a better horse with less weight on his back.” Ballinaboola Steel, a close fifth here on Monday, took the Devon Inn Hotel Handicap Hurdle under a confident ride by Bryan Cooper. Shark Hanlon’s runner mounted a challenge from two out and, in a good battle to the winning line with West Cork Wildway, prevailed by three parts of a length.
There was real drama to the finish of the Ballygarry House Hotel Mares’ Novice Chase. Three of the five runners were still in contention going to the last but the favourite, Western Victory, held an advantage front until getting in to tight and tipping up.
That left Rapid Response in front but the Henry De Bromhead-trained Popong finished strongly down the outside to collar that rival close home. It was a typically courageous ride by Rachael Blackmore, who threw everything at the last fence even though her mount had jumped quite poorly in the middle of the race.
De Bromhead and Blackmore doubled up with Stacks Mountain, who proved clear best in the Brandon Hotel Beginners’ Chase.
There was a remarkable finish to the day as the Richard O’Keeffe-trained Costalotmore made all the running to win the Listowel Vintners Association Bumper. As Jerry Hannon said in commentary as they went out on the final circuit, the horse was about a furlong clear. Tiernan Power Roche never had to ask him to do more than the horse wanted to do, and he coasted to the line 39 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer.
“I didn’t think we had him as ready as that,” admitted O’Keeffe of his two-time point to point winner. “I knew he’d stay, as that’s his game, but I thought he might blow up. We’ll look for a two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle for him.”