Space Cadet powers to victory in Ulster National

Space Cadet powers to victory in Ulster National

25 March 2020

THE first ever Ulster National, sponsored by Randox, took place behind closed doors at a bright but chilly Downpatrick on Sunday, the local track’s first meeting of the year.

The feature race drew an excellent entry, the maximum 15 runners going to post, with three reserves also declared.

This compared with last year’s nine-runner race, which was won by the Keith Watson-trained Amaulino.

Amaulino, ridden this time by Paddy O’Hanlon in place of the injured Andrew Ring, was in with a big chance of a repeat success but was challenged by Space Cadet, who stayed on to win with Ifyoucatchmenow back in third. 

The winner was ridden by delighted 19 year-old amateur rider Ben Harvey, who despite having ridden nine point-to-point winners, celebrated his first winner under rules — not the first jockey to do so at this lucky venue.

Amaulino is owned by Chris Jones, whose red and white striped colours are very well known, and the win was the biggest to date for young Co Meath trainer Gearoid O’Loughlin who said he was delighted that the owner had sent the former Gordon Elliott inmate to him to train.

Amaullino last won at Downpatrick in 2016 and O’Loughlin was considering sending it back to the point-to-point scene. The horse also provided Harvey with his first point-to-point success.

Harvey was the first amateur rider to win the National since Ann Ferris on Mourneview, trained by her father, Willie Rooney, back in 1984. SP: 25/1, 20/1, 11/2.

There was a nice local success in the Racing TV Handicap Hurdle — Downpatrick native and former jockey Niall Hannitty was present working for the channel — with 20/1 shot and former point-to-pointer Benefit North, in the colours of Cathal McGouran from Newry, winning from Kilmurry and Silk Worm. 

Well ridden by Denis O’Regan, the winner is trained at Raffrey by Colin McBratney. Walking in Memphis, trained by Brian Hamilton for Dromara’s Neville Reid, fell at the first flight.

The Boardmills Sires Maiden Hunters Chase is always a popular race at this meeting. There were 13 runners and victory went to On the Sod, a winner of all his three point-to-point races to date. Ridden by recent Cheltenham hero Rob James, the winner is owned by Derrylin-based David Christie, who has been enjoying a great point-to-point season to date. 

Staying on well to finish second was the 100/1 shot Castlebawn, a first ever racecourse ride for Killyleagh jockey Carl Hughes, who has ridden three point-to-point winners, despite trouble with his weight. Back in third was Handy Headon, ridden by Declan Lavery (7/4 fav, 100/1, 12/1).

There was drama at the first fence when three of the runners, Amarillo Rose, Well Bill and Kilgorey’ collided and came down. Fortunately, there were no injuries to horses or riders. 

The closest finish of the day came in the Tote supporting Downpatrick Racecourse Handicap Chase with Golden Sunset, in the colours of JP McManus and ridden by Tyrone jockey Simon Torrens, getting home by a head from The Trigger, ridden by Eoin Walsh for Co Armagh owner and trainer Ronan McNally. Solar Heat’ finished third. 

The Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle saw David Mullins — just back from a very serious injury that almost ended his career — record his second winner since his return to action when winning on Barnaviddaun, trained in Kilkenny by his father, Tom, from Hesamanofhisword and Will You Win. SP: 9/2, 12/1 11/10 fav. 

Gordon Elliott, regular champion trainer at Downpatrick, saddled The Very Man to win the second race of the day, the WKD Rated Hurdle. The horse was ridden by Luke Dempsey in place of Davy Russell, who stood down following a fall at Thurles the previous day.

The combination came home clear of Wajaaha, ridden by Kevin Brouder, with the local hope Jimmy Two Times, ridden by Declan Lavery, in third, this one trained by Brian Hamilton for bookmaker Sean Graham. SP: 9/4, 5/4 fav, 28/1.

Elliott went on to record a double with the day’s hotpot in the concluding race on the card, the Molson Coors pro/am flat race, with Ballyadam.

I Don’t Get It, owned and trained by Dromara’s Neil McCluskey and pulled up in its most recent race at Punchestown, set out to make all under Gearoid Brouder, and this 100/1 shot ran a cracker to finish second to the easy winner, ridden by Jamie Codd.

Still on a high following his Cheltenham success, the winner runs in the famous Cheveley Park Stud colours. Third place went to The Banger Doyle, a first runner for the new combination of former owner/trainer John Nicholson and Armagh trainer Keith Watson. 

Well done to the Downpatrick staff on an excellent job in difficult circumstances. This was one of the best ever National day’s cards at the local venue and would have drawn a large crowd.

Unfortunately, very few race cards were available which made things difficult — even more so for me as I also got the job of working the remote camera for Pat Healy, one of the best known photographers in the world.