On an otherwise uneventful afternoon at Limerick racecourse, the drama came in the stewards’ room following the two-mile handicap hurdle, as jockey Barry Geraghty, sensationally, received a 30-day ban – one which rules him out of the Punchestown festival - following his ride on runner-up Noble Emperor.
The race was won by the Willie Murphy-trained Velocity Boy, ridden by Barry Cash.
The seven-year-old poached a clear lead early on and was never challenged as he raced to an 11-length victory over Noble Emperor, who made late gains to fill the runner-up spot.
Following the race, connections of all horses, bar the winner, were called in by the stewards.
Specific to the beaten favourite, ridden by Geraghty for trainer Tony Martin, the stewards reported that “Having viewed the recording of the race and considered the evidence from trainer and rider, the stewards were of the opinion that the rider was in breach of Rule 212 having failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to give his mount the full opportunity to win or obtain his best possible place and having considered his record suspended him for thirty race days and ordered that he forfeit his riding fee.”
The severity of Geraghty’s suspension, which begins on April 17, caused greatest shockwaves. Martin, also deemed in breach of the rule, received a fine of €3,000, and the horse has been banned from racing for 60 days.
A shocked Geraghty is believed to be considering an apperal.
The rider of Definite Earl, Robbie Colgan, had left the racecourse and thus the matter was referred to the Turf Club, while the explanations of representatives for the remaining horses were noted.
Elsewhere it was business as usual as Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh teamed up to record a double with Avant Tout and Bellow Mome.
The former contested the four-runner Grade Two Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase, and the market got it right as the heavily backed 8-15 chance proved too strong for Lord Scoundrel.
With the exception of one fence down the back on the final circuit, at which he got in too close, the six-year-old jumped accurately. Sent to the front in the homestraight, he stayed on nicely to beat the game Lord Scoundrel with a little to spare.
Said Mullins: “He jumps and stays, and that’s what you needed here today. I’ll probably look at Sandown or Punchestown, but I’d imagine he’s a horse we’ll keep in for the summer. He goes on summer ground, and we’ll see how he is treated by the handicapper, but the Galway Plate could be an aim for him.
“As much as he acts on this ground, he won at Tramore on very fast ground, so whatever way it turns up at Galway it could be a realistic aim.”
Bellow Mome travelled and jumped well in the Family Fun Day May 8 Novice Hurdle but was all out to deny the well-backed A Great View by a head, with All Souls just half a length further back in third.
“He is another better-ground horse,” said Mullins. “I’ll be looking for something for him at Punchestown. He was only rated 123 today and can’t go up much more for that, so I’d imagine he’ll stay handicapping rather than go novice hurdling. I’m delighted he’s able to go on this ground, but he’s not a winter horse.”
Joked the winning rider: “It was a novice handicap chase and three of them crossed the line together - not like him, but Noel O’Brien (handicapper) seemed to do a good job there.”
Hard To Call justified heavy support when taking the Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle for Gordon Elliott and jockey Jack Kennedy. The 6-4 favourite sat behind the pace for much of the trip, but quickened up decisively in the straight to win by a wide margin.
“He’s a nice horse, and should make a good chaser in time,” said Elliott. “The further he goes the better he will be, and I’d imagine he’ll go over fences next season.”
Favourite backers got their fingers burned when Indian Fairy proved too good for odds-on shot Water Sprite in the mares’ hurdle. Donagh Meyler sent the eight-year-old to the front at tape-rise, and the Eoin Doyle-trained mare found plenty to see off the favourite.
“She got her own way in front, switched off, and jumped well, which made life easier,” said Meyler. “She was well-in on her fences mark, but it was her first run back, and we were worried she might need it.”
The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Liam Hogan Memorial Handicap Chase winner Rightville Boy, trained locally by Paddy Neville and ridden by Andrew Lynch. The 6-1 chance travelled best throughout and stayed on strongly to beat Malt Gem, who was reported to have finished lame, by seven lengths.
“He’s a tricky horse, but we’re getting to know him a bit better,” said Neville. “He was unlucky at Clonmel two runs ago, but can be a bit free in a race.
“Andrew dropped him out this time, and he settled a lot better in the race. I knew he was in great form all week, and it’s a lovely race to win. We freshened him for today, and will do the same before we decide where to go next.”
Trainer Liz Doyle has her team in great form, and exciting four-year-old Without Limites secured a second bumper success when running away with the finale. Ridden by Finny Maguire, the odds-on favourite made all, and eased clear to win by 49 lengths.
“I think he’s very, very good,” said Doyle. “I was nervous when there was support for Harry Fry’s horse (Chalonnial), but ours is a relentless galloper, has a huge engine and settled better today than at Punchestown. That’s him for this season, and he’ll go hurdling next year.”
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