Magical moments with Spot thedifference

In Clonmel on Thursday Ardalan, trained in Wexford by Paul Nolan and ridden by Shay Barry for a group of South Roscommon and Athlone lads, The Clemacken Syndicate, beat Michael Hourigan’s A New Story by a head with Share Options 3rd some 2½l further away under Ruby Walsh. The syndicate include Sean Cleary of Athlone and some of the Keenan family in Kiltoom, including Roscommon’s Paraic the Butcher, among others.   Irish racing this weekend is on the all-weather course at Dundalk on Friday night and on the turf at Gowran Park on Saturday and Navan on Sunday.    Across channel last weekend saw the Open Meeting at Cheltenham and another successful meeting for the Irish who won 5 of the 17 races ran. The highlight of the meeting for all punters was the sight of Enda Bolger’s 14-year-old gelding Spot Thedifference powering up the hill under John Thomas McNamara for a fourth successive victory in the BGC Cross Country Chase on Friday at 3/1.    In winning for the 7th time out of 11 starts over the course, which includes all types of cross-country jumps including banks, the old-timer certainly provided all the drama of the three days.    Only 8 of the 14 starters finished due to a various number of incidents, including running out, unseating and slipping up and the old horse powered his way up the hill to beat another Irish horse, the Tom McCourt trained Casadei with Davy Condon in the saddle by 1 length with David Pipe’s Puntal 2l away in 3rd. Puntal, ridden by Noel Fehily, appears to be the unlucky horse of the race having run out after the 4th jump and lost a couple of hundred yards in going back to cover the correct course. Florida Dream who also ran out with Puntal recovered to finish 5th.   Crossing the line first was only the start of the drama as on passing the winning post the horse appeared to collapse and an eerie silence descended on the crowd as the dreaded green screen went up around the prostrate animal. Thankfully after a short time he got to his feet and after a few buckets of water to revive him he walked back in front of the stands to huge applause and on to winner’s enclosure where he received a reception only surpassed in Cheltenham by that afforded the mare Dawn Run when she added the Gold Cup to the Champion Hurdle way back in 1986. There were tears of emotion in many a grown man’s eyes.   Afterwards Bolger described the few minutes after winning as the greatest rollercoaster he had ever been on. The thrill of winning, the despair of the horse collapsing and the huge relief as he rose remembering that in this race last year his Buailtes And Fadas suffered a fatal heart attack when finishing 3rd to his stablemate.   John Thomas said that the horse was traveling so fast his hind legs slipped as he tried to pull him up and he fell. All’s well that ends well and this punter will remember this race as one of the highlights of a life long interest in NH racing.     Racing started with an Irish winner in the first when Newtown Bridge trained in Meath by Grand National winning trained Gordon Elliott and ridden by Joey Elliott won the Royal Bank of Canada Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in fine style coming with a late run to touch off Peacock by 3l.    Then in the 3rd the Beards The Jewellers Cup Handicap Chase for amateur riders, Hordago, trained in Limerick by Eric McNamara gave Katie Walsh, Ruby’s sister, her first win in the Cotswolds. Hordago getting very weary in the final 50 yards gave his supporters plenty to sweat by but held on to beat Henry’s Pride by ½l.   The following day at Punchestown Katie, riding her dad’s horse Never Compromise, beat Enda Bolger’s Heads On The Ground again with JT McNamara in the saddle, in the cross country chase.   However in Cheltenham Ruby Walsh broke his collarbone when David Nicholl’s Willyandwoody suffered a fatal fall in the Novice Chase and will be out of action until Christmas.   Sonnyandjoe made if 4 for Ireland in winning the Lombard Properties Handicap Hurdle for Tom Hogan with English-based Irish jockey Paddy Brennan aboard at odds of 5/2.    On Sunday Sizing Europe, in a wind and rained lashed Gloucestershire, gave Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead his finest training moment in winning the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.    Falling at the second-last in Punchestown last month, when looking a winner, Sizing Europe supported from 13/2 to 5-1 carried 11stone 6lb won this very competitive event and now enters the Champion Hurdle picture.    Given a perfect ride by Timmy Murphy the winner was at the front from four out, switching to the near rail turning for home, and although he was headed by top-weight Osana, the Irish horse pulled away for a convincing four lengths’ win. Only a brave few greeted him home to the rain-lashed winner’s enclosure.   The gelding will probably step to conditions hurdles with the Champion Hurdle in mind if he makes the grade.   On the point to point scene only two meetings took place recently, at Loughanmore, Co. Antrim on Saturday and at Clonmel on Sunday. The Island Hunt’s meeting at Ballydarragh outside Gorey has been put back to the 9th December.   Very little to report except that Galway’s Derek O’Connor powers his way onwards with 1 winner at Loughanmore and 3 in Clonmel and is now on the 22 winner mark for the season, 13 clear of the rest.   This weekend we have the North Downs race at Kirkstown and the West Waterfords at Boulta on Saturday and again at Boulta on Sunday.   Let me know if you, the readers, are enjoying this column or if there are any other aspects of racing you would dealt with. e-mail:  horses.forcourses@yahoo.com