/ Racing

Líon wins National for Gibney and Thornton

Updated: Tuesday, 10 Apr 2012 09:39 | Comments

Andrew Thornton and Líon Na Bearnaí after their Ladbrokes Irish Grand National success Jockey Andrew Thornton and connections celebrate after Líon Na Bearnaí's Ladbrokes Irish Grand National victory
Andrew Thornton and Líon Na Bearnaí after their Ladbrokes Irish Grand National success Jockey Andrew Thornton and connections celebrate after Líon Na Bearnaí's Ladbrokes Irish Grand National victory

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Lion Na Bearnai provided trainer Tom Gibney and jockey Andrew Thornton with the biggest success of their careers in the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

A surprise winner of the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan, the 10-year-old showed stamina in abundance to see off Edward O'Grady's Out Now after the last fence.

Gibney trains only a handful of horses near the track and Thornton is a 3lb claimer, proving that the big races can still be won by the smaller yards.

The winner returned at 33-1 and won by four and a half lengths. Jonjo O'Neill's Alfie Sherrin ran another good race in third, with Paddy Pub fourth.

Arabella Boy, Deal Done and Whodoyouthink were all prominent until half a mile out when the closers began to take further interest.

Tony McCoy tried to get Groody Hill into the race but his effort was short lived, while the favourite Four Commanders was never sighted.

There was a fairytale 33-1 success for the connections of Lion Na Bearnai in the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Trainer Tom Gibney only trains a handful of horses near the course and jockey Andrew Thornton has been in and out of the sport over the last few years.

In hindsight he looked a big price given he had beaten the favourite Four Commanders when they last met in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan and he showed plenty of guts and stamina to prevail once again.

He looked a sitting duck for Edward O'Grady's Out Now in the straight but the 10-year-old wanted it more after the last and went on to win by four and a half lengths.

Cheltenham winner Alfie Sherrin was third, with Paddy Pub fourth.

"I only have the five horses and this is unbelievable, just brilliant," said Gibney.

"The last day was the real shock and we were confident coming here but we were afraid to say it. Andrew is a brilliant rider - much under-rated and he gave him a copybook ride, the whole thing was copybook. He is only a pony and anyone could ride him at home."

Thornton added: "That's absolutely unbelievable and full credit to the horse. He is tough and he jumped like a stag. He is very gutsy and never put a foot wrong. I was squeezed for room at the fence in front of the stands but otherwise everything went great through the race.

"You'd put your life in his hands, so you would."

Thornton was given a five-day suspension for using his whip with excessive frequency.

Tom Mullins' Alderwood provided Tony McCoy with a winner in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and while he may have employed different tactics in the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle, the result was the same.

Lack of early pace saw McCoy kick on early and he was not to relinquish his lead. In the end he was going away from Allure Of Illusion to win by three and a quarter lengths.

Steps To Freedom was ultimately disappointing.

"Any winner of a County Hurdle has to be respected back in novice company and in fairness to Tom and his team they had him looking particularly well for today," said McCoy.

Mullins added: "They can bounce after Cheltenham but half an hour after his run there it was like he didn't have a race. I was confident enough therefore that he wasn't feeling the effects of it.

"Tony was very worried about the pace early on so he elected to go on. I was delighted to see the rain coming today too.

"That was a similar run to Cheltenham but he was really at his best over there. Punchestown is on the agenda but he gave a good hard blow after that so we'll just have to wait and see.

"I like the way he pulled away at the end."

McCoy had earlier won on Jonjo O'Neill's Get Me Out Of Here in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle.

Second at three Cheltenham Festivals, he certainly wasn't winning out of turn. The favourite Oscars Well was way below par.

McCoy said: "I'm glad for the horse - he deserved it. He's been running consistently well in all those big handicaps. The conditions of this race suited him."

O'Neill added: "He's a great horse really and it's lovely to see him win a race like that after all those seconds.

"AP knows him really well and he might go to Punchestown. I think he'll get three miles."

Tony Martin's Dedigout provided Davy Russell with his 100th winner of the season, a victory that according to Stan James sews up the jockeys' title for him as they have now paid out.

Always highly thought of, the six-year-old won his first two starts over timber before finishing a five-length third to Monksland and Lyreen Legend in the Slaney Novice Hurdle.

"He's been running against good horses like Monksland at Naas where he made two horrendous mistakes," said Martin.

"We tried the tongue-tie today and we thought it might help. He enjoyed the ground and the bit of rain helped him.

"We'll look to see what's at Punchestown for him but he's a nice horse for the future and he'll jump fences next year."

The Tom Cooper-trained Lucky William (5-1 joint-favourite), a casualty at Cheltenham when still going well in the Grand Annual, defied top-weight in the Nina Carberry Novice Handicap Chase.

Willie Mullins' Balnaslow (4-1) was awarded the Racing Post Champion Point-to-Point INH Flat Race in the stewards room at the expense of Rogue Angel.

The latter's rider, Roger Quinlan, was suspended for five days for using his whip with excessive frequency and a further two days for careless riding.

Caduceus (10-1) proved much too good for his opponents in the ComfyBed Novice Handicap Chase, winning by a full 18 lengths in the hands of Paul Townend.

Perhaps the most exciting performance of the afternoon came in the concluding William & Gladys Bourke INH Flat Race, as Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack won his third race on the spin.

The five-year-old was among the leading fancies for last month's Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, but connections elected to bypass Prestbury Park.

Sent off the 6-5 favourite on his first start since December under Nina Carberry, Don Cossack galloped right away from his opponents in the straight to win by 17 lengths without being asked a question.

Elliott said: "If I was a horse I'd sleep with him, he's that good. That's him definitely finished for the season and we'll look forward to next season with him now."

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