Busselton takes advantage of thrilling finale to retain Guinness Kerry National crown


Joseph O'Brien and JJ Slevin claimed the biggest prize of the week at Listowel

Wednesday, September 21, 2022
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Busselton (nearest) took advantage of Hewick's late mishap


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 Festival week.

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 runs.

“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 final circuit.

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 way.

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.

I think Hewick was beginning to lay down a strong challenge - JJ Slevin

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