Winning connections of Ardnasool Jet at the presentation of the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium. (Pic: Dundalk Stadium)
Emotions ran high among winning connections after Ardnasool Jet triumphed in the final of the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium. The 3/1 second-favourite made all the running, but it was only by the minimum margin that the Donegal runner repelled the late challenge of Broadstrand Kiwi.
The youngest and the least experienced in the field, Ardnasool Jet is owned and trained by brothers, Adrian and Cathal McGhee, from Lifford, and if they and other family members weren't celebrating as winning connections of the €20,000 first prize competition normally do, it was easy to understand why.
Emmet McGhee, a nephew of Adrian and Cathal, was part of the team that prepared Ardnasool Jet in the early stages of the Sprint Cup and was present at Dowdallshill to see the son of Droopys Jet win on his first two outings. Sadly, he died tragically late last month, and it was only after giving it deep consideration that his uncles decided to continue with the dog's challenge for honours.
Bitter-sweet as the victory might have been, it was fully deserved. Ardnasool Jet went into the final with an impressive record. He'd won three of his four preliminary round races, the only defeat coming in his semi-final clash with Dorotas Del Mar; his overall record was 5 from seven, and he'd never been out of the first three.
Opinion is divided on the suitability of trap one in a sprint - of the 25 races decided leading on to the final, three were won by the red sheet (compared four by blue, five by white, six by black, five by orange, and two by stripes).
Regardless, Ardnasool Jet wore his colours with distinction, breaking smartly from the inside and building a two-length lead from Broadstrand Kiwi at the bend, with Our Boy Junior in close contention. Meanwhile, Dorotas Del Mar was struggling to overcome an uncharacteristically poor break, the warm favourite having been left flat-footed in traps - while outsiders, Madabout Paws and Beslow Maximus, were contending for only a place.
Ardnasool Jet led in but by now Broadstrand Kiwi was much closer, and as they shaped up for the line, the odds looked to be very much in Broadstrand's favour. But Ardnasool Jet wasn't to be denied. He kept his head - or at least a very little part of it - in front, the photo showing the minimum between them. The time of 21.07 was the winner's best-ever.
It was two-and-a-half lengths back to Our Boy Junior, and after that came the luckless Dorotas Del Mar, with Beslow Maximus and Madabouit Paws, in that order, filling the last two places.
Dorotas Del Mar's joint-owner, trainer Ken Hutton, who owned and prepared this year's English Derby winner, Dorotas Wildcat, would have been disappointed to see his charge blow his chances at traps, but that didn't stop him from being one of the first to congratulate winning connections.
And the favourite's trainer, Martin Lanney - seeking a second Sprint Cup with his sixth finalist - was more than magnanimous in defeat when he said: "I wanted it, they (the McGhees) needed it." Spoken like a true sport.
The supporting card had 11 races over all distances, and the winner to really catch the eye was Coloured River. Running in the Cathedral Financial Consultants Open 550, the son of Zero Ten and Cathy Said So, owned by Audrey Burney, Hamiltonsbawn, chalked up win number eight (from 16 outings) leading throughout and registering an excellent 29.80.
Rossbirr Ranger was another who was very quick on the clock. Making all the running, the Co Offaly dog took the Sprint Cup consolation final by just over a length from the Tullyallen runner, Monleek Colorado, going faster than Ardnasool Jet, 20.97.
Termonfeckin-based Mayoman, Michael Webb, is getting a great turn out of Vivs Star, who, in winning the GAIN Dual Distance final, made it two on-the-trot.
This was yet another hugely exciting finale to a Classic that has gained in stature since it was first run back in 2004.