Omagh trainer Mervyn Torrens is one of the most unassuming men in racing and the crowd at Downpatrick yesterday were delighted when he scored his first win in the Ulster National with Hughies Grey.
This was an amazing performance by Hughies Grey who led almost all the way to beat off the attentions of Posh Bird who finished second for the Ian Ferguson stable with third place going to Selection Box who was third for the second year running for Colin McBratney.
As far as Torrens was concerned, he was naturally delighted with this win.
It came on the second anniversary of the tragic death of his daughter in a tractor accident which shocked the family to the core.
“My wife Ann was cheering for Hughies Grey, which was only our second runner in the race, and the victory coming when it did took away some of the hurt suffered by the loss of our daughter,” Torrens said.
Trainer Ferguson was hopeful that Bally Wall, who was second last year, and Posh Bird would run well and this was the case but in the closing stages there was only one winner when Hughies Grey extended his lead to beat Posh Bird at 8-1.
Selection Box made up ground steadily from the back of the field to finish third but really the only horses in contention for a long time were Hughies Grey and Bally Wall.
“I thought for a long time that Hughies Grey would win,” said Torrens.
“My jockey, Michael Darcey from Galway, has never ridden in the race before and he produced a smashing performance.
“This win continues a good run for me, for I was successful in Navan last friday when Narima won.
“This time last year I had a winner at Dundalk on the same day which was four days before the Ulster National, so lightning struck twice.”
As for plans Torrens emphasised that Hughies Grey who won a good race when second at Down
Royal at the beginning of February will now be heading for the Irish Grand National At Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
“I feel he will run a big race,” said Torrens, “but today was the day.”
The first race yesterday was won by Garamor Boy trained by Patrick Brady who wasn't at the meeting because of flu.
However, the owner Colm Higgins from Newcastle was there to see his horse win and score a victory for a horse he had bred.
“This was my first win on the racecourse since breeding Garamor Boy,” he said. “It’s disappointing that Oliver wasn't hear to see it.”
Apart from the Ulster National the day belonged to Navan trainer Gordon Elliott who had a double beginning with Brave Beauty ridden by Paul Carberry and continuing with Nutin Fancy who won the bumper.
In addition Gerald Cully, who rode Newton Fancy, also had a double when Kanesh won the hunters chase with a fine performance.