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Space Cadet's Ulster triumph just out of this world, says O'Loughlin

 

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Grand feeling: jockey Ben Harvey with Space Cadet after winning yesterday’s Randox Ulster National at Downpatrick

Grand feeling: jockey Ben Harvey with Space Cadet after winning yesterday’s Randox Ulster National at Downpatrick

Jockey Ben Harvey making his move to claim victory

Jockey Ben Harvey making his move to claim victory

Grand feeling: jockey Ben Harvey with Space Cadet after winning yesterday’s Randox Ulster National at Downpatrick

The featured Randox Ulster Grand National provided trainer Gearoid O'Loughlin and amateur rider Ben Harvey with the biggest win of their careers when Space Cadet ran out a convincing winner of the big race.

It was just a pity that so few were there to witness Harvey's first course win as the showpiece event was forced behind closed doors due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Fancied pair General Principal and Ifyoucancatchmenow dominated for most of the race, with the latter coming home in third.

Fitted with blinkers for the first time and having contested the Welsh Grand National, Space Cadet made steady improvement over the final mile of the marathon and was in a close fourth.

He then challenged to lead at the final fence and denied the locally-trained Amaulino, who made a gallant effort to prevail again after last year's triumph.

Only six of the starters completed the course.

Space Cadet is owned by Chris Jones, who has had multiple top horses but was absent yesterday under the current strict regulations.

Winning trainer O'Loughlin said: "It's unreal - my voice has gone! It is a great pot to win and it is great for the owner to give me the horse.

"Ben Harvey won his first point-to-point on him and, to tell you the truth, I thought he would run well today but I said to myself we would be going point-to-pointing again next year.

"It was a big shock to me, but obviously the blinkers worked a treat. I had been holding off and holding off having them on him. I think they made all the difference and I probably have learned how to train him - the key to training him is not to train him!"

The handicap hurdle supplied a local success and a 20/1 winner when Benefit North recorded a straightforward victory with Denis O'Regan on board.

The winner is trained in Crossgar by Colin McBratney and owned by Newry businessman Cathal McGovern, who landed the 2009 Galway Plate with Ballyholland - also trained by McBratney.

The trainer said: "He's a very pacey horse. He travels so easy and we knew he would travel at the top of the hill. He got a couple of lengths and was able to freewheel down the hill. I was expecting a good run.

"We thought we were going to be bang on there today. There was a bit of money for him, but we have nothing to spend it on!"

Omagh jockey Simon Torrens was seen to excellent advantage when scoring on the JP McManus-owned Golden Sunset in the handicap chase.

The Niall Madden-trained horse was one of numerous holding claims at the penultimate fence but jumped to the front at the last to readily land the prize and follow up Maze success for the pair in January.

On The Sod remains unbeaten in his four starts following a runaway victory in the hunter chase for Derrylin trainer David Christie and rider Rob James.

Three departed at the first fence but On The Sod, always close up, asserted at the last and shot clear.

The opener was won by the Thomas Mullins-trained Barnaviddaun, partnered by the trainer's son David who has just returned to riding following a potential career-ending injury.

The runner-up, Hesamanofhisword, finished with a late flourish. However, the 2016 Aintree Grand National-winning jockey (on Rule The World) was in command.

Favourite Vinnie Is Busy did not enhance his prospects when he played up at the start.

Mullins said: "He stays well and is a big chaser in the making. He's a well-deserved winner and it is great for his owner. There's no soft in the ground -it is yielding ground, no worse."

The Very Man, trained by Gordon Elliott, proved a clear-cut winner of the Rated Hurdle with Luke Dempsey replacing Davy Russell on his intended mount yesterday.

The Very Man was always close up as the locally-trained Jimmy Two Times - winner of the race four years ago - made much of the early running.

However, The Very Man was always travelling ominously well and led at the final flight before going clear. Favourite Wajaaha had every chance but was unable to quicken late with trainer Charles Byrnes again having to settle for second place.

Elliott said: "He's a grand sort. He had been beaten a few times but, in fairness to him, he had some lovely runs."

Elliott doubled up on the day when Ballyadam turned the concluding bumper into a procession. Despite keen competition, the winner, with Jamie Codd aboard, cantered into the lead turning into the straight.

He appears to have a big future to warrant his £330,000 price tag, having been bought from Wilson Dennison's Templepatrick nursery.

The Larne-based Crawford brothers, Stuart and Steven, travelled to Thurles on Saturday to claim the bumper in fine fashion with debutant Major Robinson, partnered by Codd.

Belfast Telegraph