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Symphonist wins at Downpatrick

By Jimmy Walker

Symphonist scored a bittersweet victory in the Down GAA Fundraising Novice Handicap Hurdle at Downpatrick yesterday on a day when Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly was paraded.

Hurricane Fly’s owners George Creighton from Belfast and Rose Boyd from Crossgar both received trophies to mark the occasion.

However Symphonist, trained by Larne's Roy Wilson, stole the show and won a race which brought back memories of his former handler Alison the eight year old daughter of the horse’s former trainer Mervyn Torrens.

Alison was killed in a farming accident two years ago and after yesterday’s race Alison’s mother Joan Torrens said: “This was her horse and it’s great that he has won a race for his new trainer.”

Wilson explained: “My assistant trainer is Willie Rankin, the nephew of Mervyn Torrens who used to have the horse. Willie was the cousin of Alison.”

Rankin, who had won two point to points on Symphonist, said: “It’s great to see Symphonist win in memory of Alison. The Torrens family are delighted and rightly so.”

Mervyn Torrens said that it was an emotional day.

“This win brings back memories of my daughter tinged with grief for it will take a long time to get over her death. Her memory lives on through the exploits of the horse whom she was very close to when he was at my stable,” he said.

Rankin outlined Symphonist’s schedule.

“The plan is that Symphonist will go to Aintree for the Conditional Jockeys Hurdle which follows immediately after the Grand National.

“Hopefully the horse will get into the race but these are early days,” he said.

Symphonist was available at 20-1 yesterday morning before being backed down to 8-1. It was something of a fairytale victory.

As for the race itself, Symphonist made every yard of the running under Tralee jockey Brian Cooper who said: “I just let him free wheel during the race and when he came down the hill at the end I knew he had it won.”

Cooper is an 18 year old who has already had a win at Downpatrick but yesterday was his finest and Wilson said he would probably ride the horse at Aintree.

Ruby Walsh, who won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Hurricane Fly, had a number of fancied runners at yesterday’s meeting but managed to make the winners list on only one occasion. This was in the second race riding Fosters Cross for Tom Mullins.

Second place went to the well fancied Wikalla who looked like getting up close home before Walsh turned on the taps. Newmill finished third.

Walsh, leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, said: “I've always had a lucky time at Downpatrick and it was good for the Mullins family that I had a winner with Fosters Cross.” Mullins said: “The horse needs to have that sort of good ground and he will probably go to Fairyhouse for a Handicap Chase or a Handicap Hurdle at the Easter meeting.”

Jockey Nina Carberry was fancied for the final two races including the Hurricane Fly Maiden Hunter Chase but there was to be no fairytale ending for Norwich Flyer was well beaten in the closing stages in a race won by The Snuffler.

Then in the bumper Carberry was fancied on Erin’s Stage but the winner was Seaneen Mac Ri trained by Jerry Cosgrave.

Hurricane Fly’s appearance attracted a big crowd to the meeting and joint owner Rose Boyd said: “It’s great to have a local horse winning at Cheltenham and coming here to take the stage.”

Yesterday’s crowd was one of the biggest at Downpatrick in recent years — largely due to Ulster’s new hero Hurricane Fly.

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