Monty's Pass gets hero's welcome

 

Monty's Pass kept his audience waiting but showed more than a little star quality at the Curragh yesterday. Brian O'Connor reports.

The Grand National winner dropped into Flat racing's headquarters en route to the tiny Co Cork village of Conna where a grandstand welcome was being organised last night.

The horse, along with his trainer Jimmy Mangan, paraded after the second race to a rapturous audience that included the top flat trainer Aidan O'Brien. The U2 front man Bono was also at the races yesterday.

Monty's Pass became the third Irish winner of the world's most famous steeplechase in the last five years and landed a huge gamble in the process. Mike Futter, one of the horse's owners, picked up almost €850,000 in winning bets after backing the horse earlier in the year at 66 to 1, 50 to 1 and 40 to 1.

The Belfast-based gambler, who owns 11 bingo halls, said after the victory: "I've had some fantastic bets and fantastic days but this is one I will never forget." The party to celebrate was pretty unforgettable too as the horsebox bringing Monty's Pass home missed the 3.00 ferry from Hollyhead to Dublin and so had to wait in Wales until 9.00 yesterday morning.

"We weren't too worried about missing it. There's only one National and you might as well give it holly!" said Mangan's assistant, Mossy Hartnett.

Monty's Pass, led round by Mangan's wife Mary, looked unperturbed by all the fuss and posed in front of the crowds around the parade ring who strained over the rails to touch him.

A large media pack were also on hand, although requests for Mangan to kiss the horse were greeted with: "I'm not going to get my jaw broken!" The 47-year-old trainer said Monty's Pass, who started 16 to 1 on Saturday, could run again this season in the Heineken Gold Cup at Punchestown. "That looks good for Native Upmanship but we won't refuse any place money. We don't want the big bite all the time!" he joked.

Mangan added: "It was nice to win the Galway Plate and the Kerry National but this is the best. I'd say Mike (Futter) isn't the most popular man with the bookies but it's been wonderful.

"From a long way out in the race I was saying to myself 'am I seeing things.' Barry (Geraghty) was just sitting on him and going so well We're waiting to head back to Conna and I'd say the welcome will be great. They are great sporting people and it's a great horsey area."

It wasn't just Futter who caught the bookmakers. The layers in Cork are also licking their wounds. "It's a very bad result in the betting shops, especially after the Cheltenham we had. It's a bit of a disaster," said Joseph Burke of Cashmans.

"On Friday we calculated we stood to lose €225,000 if Monty's Pass won but after Saturday, it's probably more like €600,000. And that's to err on the side of caution," he added.

The winning jockey Barry Geraghty was riding at the Tramore meeting yesterday but was planning to team up with his partner again at last night's home coming in Conna, near Fermoy.

Geraghty (24) guided Monty's Pass to a 12-length victory on Saturday, beating the 40 to 1 outsider Supreme Glory into second with Amberleigh House (33 to 1) in third.

Gunner Welburn (16 to 1) was fourth but the 7 to 1 favourite Shotgun Willy never figured and was pulled up at the 21st fence.

The JP McManus-owned Youlneverewalkalone was pulled up on the first circuit with a leg injury. He was operated on for a fractured off-fore canon bone yesterday morning and is reported "comfortable"

Grand National report: Page 10