Darren Clarke is a hit at Down Royal
Open Golf champion Darren Clarke made an unexpected appearance in the winners circle at Down Royal last night when he congratulated trainer Andy Oliver on winning the Mimco Handicap with Just On Fire.
It turned out that Oliver and Clarke had been school mates at Dungannon Royal.
The Caledon trainer said: "I remember he came to me on one occasion and said he was going to give up rugby and take up golf.
"Believe it or not, I said he was wasting his time and that he would never make a golfer!"
Clarke was delighted that Oliver's horse had won at such a good price as 4-1.
"I never knew that Andy was in this game at all," Clarke said.
"When I recall our school days horses weren't on the agenda."
Clarke was accompanied in the winners enclosure by his partner Alison Campbell, the former Miss Northern Ireland.
Alison's model agency has been involved with sponsorship at Down Royal, including the Best Dressed Lady Award.
As for the race, Just On Fire made his move just over a furlong from home and soon went clear to win in impressive style from Stone Peak with third place going to Bangalore Diamond.
This season has been one of Oliver's best ever and he has had big-race winners at several courses, including the Curragh - where he has runners tomorrow.
Oliver said: "I'll keep Just On Fire in the same type of company and at the moment I have no plans as to where he runs next.
"It was a good performance by jockey Ben Curtis who normally rides the horse."
The big race of the night, Her Majesty's Plate, went to Northgate who trounced the opposition to win from End Of The Affair with Zaralabad in third place.
This was a good win for trainer John Murphy and also for jockey Pat Smullen who normally rides for Dermot Weld.
The Ulster Cesarewitch was won by Golan Guy who scored for trainer Tony Martin and jockey Seamus Heffernan.
Trainer Ger Lyons had his almost obligatory winner when Mount Meru took the LK Bennett Nursery Handicap over seven furlongs.
Lyons paid tribute to his South African jockey Keegan Latham.
"Keegan is among the top flight in his league and rode a tremendous winner," said Lyons.
"When you look at the previous form of Mount Meru you have to discount his defeat at Roscommon and all his appearances made him entitled to start favourite. He will now go to Dundalk."
Meanwhile, the Irish St Leger is the highlight on a day of quality Flat racing at the Curragh that boasts the final two Group Ones of the domestic campaign today.
Just prior to the St Leger, in which the breathtaking Gold Cup hero Fame And Glory bids to redeem his reputation after coming undone by today's rival Fictional Account in a trial last month, the Goffs National Stakes showcases an array of potential superstars.
While the market for the juvenile contest remains quite open, though, there is a far more lopsided look to the main event.
Fame And Glory is as low as 4/6 for the one-mile-six-furlong event.
Ruby Walsh makes his eagerly-anticipated return to action at Listowel tomorrow where his sole ride is Tony Martin's Salute Him in the Kerrymaid Hurdle.
The eight-time Irish champion jockey has been on the sidelines since suffering a crushed vertebra in a fall at Killarney in July.
"It's great to have Ruby back and I'm sure he's glad to be back in action himself," commented Martin.