Carlingford Lough, a horse that wasn't even in the original line-up, led home a famous Tote Galway Plate 1-2-3 for owner JP McManus yesterday, and in the process again focused attention on racing's system of reserves, and its non-runner rules.
Declared as first-reserve for the race, with Tony McCoy on board, Carlingford Lough, the ante-post favourite for Ireland’s most prestigious summer steeplechase prize, needed one of the 22 runners in the field proper to drop out in order to secure a starting place.
In the event, Like Your Style, one of four other McManus -owned horses among the 22, was pulled out by trainer Edward Harty before the first race yesterday due to the change in ground conditions.
Persistent rain had altered the going on the steeplechase course to “soft” which was substantially more testing compared to what it was at declaration time the previous day.
What was noticeable at a stewards enquiry into the matter though was the Turf Club’s senior handicapper, Noel O’Brien, pointed out how Like Your Style has shown his best form on soft or heavy conditions, adding that his two career victories came on soft ground.
He also added that Like Your Style's best recent form came on heavy ground when finishing second in the Troytown Chase at Navan.
Harty accepted the horse's best form has been on soft conditions but described this as "more circumstantial than anything," with soft conditions more common in Ireland.
His opinion was the horse would prefer better ground and he said Like Your Style was only just ready to run after a break, and he didn’t want to risk the rest of the season by subjecting him to a hard race in conditions far from ideal. The stewards “noted” his explanation.
The Turf Club's chief executive Denis Egan subsequently said there are no plans to examine the rules which allow horses to be withdrawn without penalty if there is a material difference in ground conditions between declaration time and the day of the race.
“Alive Alive Oh was recently declared for the Irish Oaks on good to firm ground, and she was taken out when the ground was good to firm, so a fine of €4,000, or one per cent of the prizemoney, was imposed,” he said.
"In this case there was substantial material change in the ground between declaration stage and race time."
That rule has been described as too unwieldy in the past, and a horse, which has only won on soft ground, being withdrawn because the ground had turned soft, looked to show up the weaknesses in it.
There was certainly nothing unwieldy about Carlingford Lough in the race, although McCoy had to cope with the well-backed 7-2 favourite jumping to his left, and a mistake at the third last meant the legendary British champion jockey had to be typically forceful to get into a challenging position after the last.
Carlingford Lough gamely overhauled the 33-1 outsider Quantitativeeasing however and had a length and a half in hand at the line, with Jacksonslady running on for third to complete a McManus clean-sweep akin to what Aidan O'Brien and Coolmore Stud have achieved in the Irish Derby more than once.
O’Brien also trained the first three home in the 1995 Plate.
"It's special. The Plate is one of those races you love to win," said McManus who was winning the famous prize for a sixth time. "AP lifted him home."
It was a first though for Carlingford Lough's popular Co Waterford trainer John Kiely who said: "The Plate is a race I've wanted to win since coming to Galway as a child. I've won the Galway Hurdle twice, and now I've won the Plate _ so it can't get much better."
The Plate was just one of a series of races yesterday where bookmakers took a real hammering, with Tony Martin bringing his tally for an already hugely-successful festival to five when Blackmail made an impressive jumping debut in the maiden hurdle and Victrix Gale routed her opposition in the three mile handicap hurdle.
Willie Mullins saddled another winning favourite with Union Dues in the amateur maiden but in case Martin thought he was favourite for the leading trainer title, Dermot Weld hit back with a double in the last two races to also reach five winners this week.