Shark's Alfa Aintree-bound
In the space of 12 months Alfa Beat had changed owner and trainer, and hadn't won a race, but yesterday he joined a small group of horses that has won the Guinness Kerry National two years in a row.
Sent off a massive 20/1 shot for trainer Shark Hanlon and last year's winning jockey Barry Geraghty, it was a race that panned out similarly to last year's renewal as Geraghty went wide in search of better ground.
A mistake by Fosters Cross left Alfa Beat in front longer than would have been ideal, but with the aid of blinkers Alfa Beat stayed on gamely and impressively held off any of those that would make a charge from behind. Charles Byrnes, who trained Alfa Beat to win the race last year, had to settle for second place this time around as his well-backed Bideford Legend was three and a three-parts of a length back.
American-based Irvin Naylor, who is one of the biggest racehorse owners over there, purchased the winning grey for £70,000, and now all roads lead to Aintree for the Grand National and the race Naylor bought the horse to try and win.
It was undoubtedly one of the most rewarding days of Hanlon's training career as Alfa Beat defied those who questioned the purchase.
Hanlon admitted: "I honestly thought the ground was gone for him, but Barry stayed wide for the best of it and fair play to him. I met him six months ago and he told me he'd like to ride him in the race again and he stuck with him, which is a huge bonus."
The Carlow trainer added: "I only had him a couple of months and he'll get a break now and come back for a spin over hurdles before going to Aintree."
Cheltenham's Fred Winter Hurdle winner What A Charm fared the best out of John Oxx's trio in yesterday's Listowel Stakes winning with a game effort under Ben Curtis.
The four-year-old filly will remain with Oxx for at least another run on the level before returning to Arthur Moore for whom he tasted Cheltenham success.