A huge win at York for little star Dirar
Yesterday's card was unique at this meeting in lacking a Group One prize, its focus instead being a mere handicap.
But this is known as Ebor week for a reason, and yesterday Dirar reminded the festive county throng why.
Thirty-one years ago it was won by Sea Pigeon, the dual champion hurdler, under 10 stone.
Now, for the second season running, the richest handicap in Europe was plundered by an Irish trainer better known for prolific success over jumps.
Last year, it had been Willie Mullins; this time it was Gordon Elliott, the understated young man who announced his talent in the least bashful fashion imaginable by winning the Grand National in his first campaign, with Silver Birch in 2007.
The Totesport Ebor, in other words, is a race for all seasons. One of the leading fancies yesterday was Overturn, already a winner this summer of both the Northumberland Plate and the Galway Hurdle.
As it turned out, he proved ready for a break, dropping away from the lead at halfway. He was soon tailed off, but could still claim some reflected glory from Dirar, who had finished third at Galway.
The fact is that too many of the Flat specialists were ridden to use their speed too greedily, and the picture changed rapidly in the final 300 yards.
Jamie Spencer has jump racing in his blood, not to mention his heart, but his familiar daring in this environment proved vital after he dropped out Dirar from a wide draw.
When taking his saddle from the weighing room, Elliott had amused Spencer by asking: “Drawn 22 — is that good or bad?” In theory it was terrible, but Spencer held his nerve, got the splits he needed and rode a fierce finish to thwart Kieren Fallon, in full cry on Rosika, by just over a length.
Spencer gave an exultant roar, and little wonder. His mount had won a first prize of £130,000. “This horse is just a little pony,” he said. “But he's very brave and generous.” Elliott proved more succinct. “An honest little rat,” the Co Meath trainer pronounced.
Fallon had been booked for Rosika by his former boss, Sir Michael Stoute, who has only proved willing over recent days to renew their old alliance.
His stable jockey, Ryan Moore, remains sidelined by a wrist injury, and Fallon has certainly seized the moment.
He has been in prolific form during Moore's absence and a trademark drive had won the opener for Stoute on The Fonz.
Ruby Walsh secured his first win since returning from injury as Glantara triumphed in the Jameson Novice Chase at Killarney last night.
The rider had been sidelined for over four months after breaking his arm in a fall at Aintree on Grand National day back in April.
"It's great to be back and the arm feels good. The horse jumped like a buck throughout," Walsh said.