Busselton secured back-to-back
Guinness Kerry National triumphs for trainer Joseph O’Brien after a dramatic
conclusion at Listowel, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.
The five-year-old star was neck
and neck with main challenger Hewick as the pair headed over the final fence
but Shark Hanlon’s Galway Plate hero narrowly clipped the top, dismounting
jockey Jordan Gainford.
Despite Hewick’s cruel luck at the
very end, Busselton was a worthy winner having made all the running over the
three-mile trip to give O’Brien his second win in the feature of Harvest
Willie Mullins’ Recite A Prayer
took advantage of Hewick’s fall to claim second, while Darasso - another
O’Brien runner - was back in third, although neither were able to make it a
nervy finish for Busselton’s connections once Hewick was out of the picture.
Winning jockey JJ Slevin said: “I
think Hewick was beginning to lay down a strong challenge.
“Jordan Gainford and I are
neighbours at home so it would have been a good finish, but I'm glad to have
finally come out on the right side of it.
“For a five-year-old to go and do
it twice in this race really is unbelievable.
“The start was important and we
knew we had to get away sharp. We always said in our minds that whatever comes
past him (Busselton) is going to have to work.
“You look over the years at
Joseph’s horses and that is their game, they’re tough, they jump when the going
is tough, and they are very hard to get past.
“He gives his all every time he
“He could be a (grand) national
horse but we will have to wait a few years first.”
The showpiece race across seven
days of action from County Kerry always provides thrills and spills with the
2022 vintage not disappointing.
Billed as a rematch of the Galway
Plate from July with the one-two-three from that contest all lining up again,
instead it was last year’s winner who did the business.
The much-fancied Hurricane Georgie
made a bad mistake at the first and was pulled up
before the real racing had even started.
Mullins’ main pre-race contender
El Barra was looking to turn the tables after finishing third behind Hewick and
Darasso at Galway.
But he had already lost ground to
the main contenders before his chances ended after a heavy fall just before the
As they turned for home plenty
were still in contention, but the eventual winner and top weight Hewick emerged
from the pack to produce a thrilling finale.
Hanlon’s seven-year-old looked
like he would offer a battle to the post, only to be denied in the cruellest
Mullins meanwhile did at least get
the consolation of second with Recite A Prayer.
Eleswhere on Wednesday, the King
of Closutton did have a winner when No Risk No Fun maintained his unbeaten
record with a comfortable win in the McSweeney Brothers Maiden Hurdle.
The 2/9 favourite never looked in
any trouble in the day’s opening contest, eventually passing the post with ten
lengths in hand over second-placed Pro Bono.