RATHKEALE trainer Eric McNamara enjoyed one of the biggest successes of his training career when saddling the first two home in the featured 160,000euro Guinness Kerry National, the centrepiece of the seven-day Listowel Harvest Festival.
McNamara recorded his third win in the prestigious contest when Faltering Fullback sprang a 33/1 surprise in claiming the top prize for the Limerick handler, while his better fancied stablemate Questions Answered came in second.
Faltering Fullback was only second reserve in the maximum 18-runner field in Wednesday’s race, but got his chance to run when Save My Blushes was declared a non-runner and first reserve Shabra Charity did not take up the invitation.
Danny Mullins sent the winner clear before the final fence and he galloped on strongly to win by five and a half lengths. Winning trainer McNamara had previously won the race in 2007 and 2008 with Ponmeoath.
A delighted Eric McNamara said: “Before the race I thought Questions Answered had a really good chance and I really fancied him. He ran a fabulous race to finish second.
“That was a bit out of the blue in fairness and Faltering Fullback came back to what he once promised.
“He won a novice chase here before and was a very good horse but just lost his way. The three miles and bottom weight just helped him and he came back to form at the right time. It’s been a great race for me. We won it twice with Ponmeoath and he’s back today. This is his sixth run in the Kerry National and his ninth year to run here which is a great achievement. He didn’t run a bad race (in eighth).
“Sean Curran is involved in both horses (Ponmeoath and Faltering Fullback). He has been the most amazing and fabulous owner and I’m delighted for him. There is also Mike Fitzsimmons who lives close by in Foynes and is now based in London. They are great friends as well as fabulous owners.
“We love Listowel and always target this race if we have a horse to suit.”
Meanwhile, one of the biggest highlights of the week is Ladies Day on this Friday featuring the Best Dressed Ladies competition which carries a total prizefund of euro9,000. The first prize in the best dressed competition is a €2,000 Voucher for Chic Boutique plus €500 cash, and a limited edition print from artist Olive Stack plus a morning of styling. Racing also continues on Saturday, the final day of the Festival.
Admission is priced at E20 each day for adults and euro12 for senior citizens and students. U-16s gain free admission to the races.