Joseph O’Brien’s Assemble was a comfortable winner of the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel on Wednesday.
Partnered by 7lb claimer Shane Fitzgerald, the seven-year-old provided his pilot with the biggest victory of his career when taking the €150,000 contest by two and three-quarter lengths from Brahma Bull, in a race that had its fair share of drama.
Starting at 9-1, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding travelled neatly behind the leaders, avoiding any trouble and throwing down a challenge with two fences remaining, catching long-time leader Annamix and holding off the rallying runner-up.
Assistant trainer Brendan Powell said: "On his form at Cheltenham this year when he was fifth in the Paddy Power [Plate], he'd a good chance. He's always threatened he'd stay well.
“Shane seems to get a lovely tune out of him. He’s a horse that has fallen three times but he’s a great horseman and got him jumping.
“He’d a nice position the whole way. I thought turning all you’ve got to do is jump the last two and he’d win because he’d keep galloping. The ground probably suited him as well.
“Now that his jumping has got together hopefully he’s got a good future. He could be an Irish National horse but that’s for Joseph and Mr [Michael] O’Leary to decide.”
Fitzgerald added: “It’ll probably take a good while to sink in, but it’s unreal. It’s an absolutely massive thanks to Joseph O’Brien and to Gigginstown – to everyone in the yard, and all the staff that put in all the work to get to days like this that we’re all very grateful for.
“It’s some thrill, and just to be on a horse of that calibre is just unreal. It’s hard to describe, the feeling is just unreal.
“He had a couple of Fs on his card, but I thought I got a great spin off him in the Galway Plate. He finished seventh and ran an absolute cracker. We thought the flatter track here would suit him.
“I was happy everywhere I went today. When I turned for home and gave him a squeeze and he picked up, I knew I was full of horse going to the second-last. I knew if something came to me, he was going to battle hard if need be.
“It’s fairytale stuff. You can’t really describe it.”