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Ulster Grand National: Passion is simply intoxicating

By Frank Brownlow

Tony McCoy's victory on board Don't Push It in the Aintree Grand National sparked emotional scenes, and yesterday's Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick provided a reminder of just what this tough sport means to the people involved.

The race was won by 8-1 shot Hughies Grey in front of a noisy, enthusiastic crowd of almost 4,000 people.

But Hughies Grey's owner Michael McCallan admitted that he couldn't bring himself to watch his horse in action in the flesh, instead opting to view the race on a small television in one of the function rooms at the track — nervously peering at the screen through his fingers!

“It's brilliant to win but the race itself was totally nerve-wracking,” said a delighted McCallan after the race. And it was very much a triumph for Tyrone, with the owner hailing from Carrickmore, while trainer Mervyn Torrens is also based in the county.

“I only live about 10 miles from Mervyn so that makes this win very special,” added McCallan.

Hughies Grey's victory bagged €16,000 for the horse's connections — plus a crack at the €50,000 bonus offered by sponsors Toals Bookmakers for an Ulster National and Irish National double, the big Fairyhouse showdown scheduled for Easter Monday. “We can always dream,” smiled trainer Torrens. “But we will probably have a go at it.”

The winner was ridden by Galway jockey Mick Darcy.

Darcy revealed that he will spend today schooling horses at Dundalk Racecourse. The ticker-tape victory parade through Galway city will just have to wait.

There were mixed emotions for Ballymena trainer Ian Ferguson, one of whose two charges — Posh Bird — finished second as a 14-1 outsider while the much fancied Bally Wall, runner-up last year, didn't figure in the shake-up.

An Ulster-trained 1-2-3 was completed by Selection Box, under the command of Crossgar handler Colm McBratney.

Belfast Telegraph

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