Imperial Call back to his classy best


Imperial call made a highly pleasing return to racecourse action at a well-attended Limerick yesterday when giving two stone all-round in the Murphys Irish Stout Munster National Handicap Chase.

The 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero jumped superbly for Conor O'Dwyer, and struck the front with a mighty leap at the last to beat Tell The Nipper by a cosy length.

Raymond Hurley, 23, who has taken over the training of the Callernish gelding after the retirement of Fergie Sutherland, said: "He has done a lot of slow work but his class brought him through today. Hopefully he will be sound in the morning, and we can make plans for the season then."

Kevin O'Brien, 34, announced his retirement from the saddle after successfully partnering Deejaydee in the opening INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.

However, the Michael Hourigan-trained odds-on favourite was certainly no armchair ride as he needed strong driving inside the final half mile to head Native Wit at the last, and was all out to hold on by a length.

It was appropriate that he signed off with a winner for Hourigan as the pair enjoyed a successful association for over 12 years, with the Limerick handler providing him with nearly half of his estimated 500 winners. O'Brien, who will now concentrate on his training operation at the Curragh, nominated Atone, winner of the Ladbroke Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy in the space of a few weeks at Leopardstown, as the best horse he had ridden. Tropical Lake, winner of the Glenlivet 4YO Hurdle at Aintree, and the Jim Dreaper-trained chasers Merry Gale and Harcon also provided him with memorable days in the saddle.

Pontefract today stages its last meeting of the season and the occasion is bound to be an emotional one for trainer Lynda Ramsden who saddles her final runners at the West Yorkshire track before retiring.

Ramsden has often been the darling of the punters at Pontefract in recent years and can sign off from one of her favourite venues with a treble courtesy of Mungo Park, Northern Accord and Persian Waters.

The former takes his chance in the day's Showcase event, the Tote Handicap, and renews his acquaintance with champion and former Ramsden stable jockey Kieren Fallon.

Mungo Park is a quirky character who does not often find a lot in a finish.

He needs to be kept covered up as long as possible and in Fallon he has the perfect partner to establish those tactics, which have produced four victories this season, two at Newcastle and one each at Beverley and Nottingham.

Fallon will also partner Persian Waters in the closing Feathers Hotel Nursery.

The Persian Bold colt has not been given a hard time of things in his four outings to date but showed plenty of ability when fourth to Blackpool Rock on his latest outing at Nottingham.

Persian Waters has the honour of being the final representative of Ramsden at this tight track and can send her supporters away happy.

And Northern Accord can set up the Ramsden treble by winning the Clayton Bigley Partnership Handicap.