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Grand family affair as local hero scores

By Ron McKnight

The Ulster Grand National, sponsored by Toals Bookmakers, produced a very popular local success with Anseanachi Cliste making virtually all the running to prevail in a photo finish at the line.

It was the winner's first start on the track proper, having been unbeaten in his last eight points runs, being trained at Portadown by Stephen McConville and owned by his son Michael who has ridden the horse to victory in his point to points wins.

Tulsa Jack challenged strongly in the shadow of the post but Anseanachi Cliste scored by a head. Young Dillon Robinson partnered the horse in the big race with the winner so lowly rated he was 10lbs out of the handicap.

McConville senior said: "We always had this race in our heads. We knew the distance and track would suit as he just keeps galloping."

The horse was first to collect the new Caughoo Perpetual Trophy in memory of the dual Ulster National winner which won the Aintree Grand National in 1947 and owner Michael McConville said: "We'll need to see what the handicapper does.

"We might think about the cross channel nationals as he really needs the marathon trip and a tough test to be at his best. He won over four miles at Kinsale last year. It's just a great family success and most of them ride him at home."

Racing got underway with a photo needed to decide the result of the opener.

The Alan Fleming trained Holly Flight, under a determined ride from Denis O'Regan, prevailed to beat the well supported Fly Rory Fly with favourite Icario disappointing yet again.

Fleming said: "She's a nice filly,. Owner Barry Connell bought her as a three-year-old out of France. She was third over hurdles first time out behind Apple's Jade. Hopefully she might improve again. I'm not sure where we will go, it will probably be Fairyhouse or Punchestown with a bit of luck."

Derulo proved a different class in the closing stages of the Guinness Hurdle.

The Liz Doyle runner, with Sean Flanagan aboard, made steady progress to lead at the final flight before asserting on the up hill climb.

The winning trainer said: "It looks like he needs every yard of the two and a half miles. He's an improving horse and I haven't run him because of the recent ground."

Andratx, trained by Sligo handler Mark McNiff, made all the running to land a gamble from 25s to 7/1 in the handicap hurdle.

The winner, with Andrew Ring in the saddle, always travelled with ease and McNiff said: "He's a handy little horse and the tight track suited. We'll look for another race and probably come back here at some stage - the course is lucky for me."

I'm an Izz Wizz looked likely to supply another local winner but was caught on the line by a rallying Merrion Row.

However rider and current Northern Region Champion rider, Mark O'Hare, quickly gained compensation when Clondaw Frisby claimed the hunterchase for trainer,Gerry Cosgrave and a local syndicate.

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