Space Cadet scores in the Ulster National at Downpatrick

Gearoid O’Loughlin’s 10-year-old wins under rules for the first time since October 2016

Space Cadet landed the decent prize he had often threatened in his younger days when staying on strongly to win the Randox Ulster National Handicap Chase at Downpatrick.

Having spent a large part of his career with Gordon Elliott, Space Cadet was moved by owner Chris Jones to Gearoid O'Loughlin's yard last year — and despite winning two point-to-points for his new handler, he had not managed to bag a race under rules since October 2016.

There had been the odd glimmer of hope, though — with Space Cadet finishing fourth to Chris’s Dream in the Troytown in November and fifth in the Leinster National last time.

He was only 16-1 for the Welsh National in December and had dropped further in the weights, so in hindsight his 25-1 starting price looked very generous.


Ridden by amateur Ben Harvey — who was registering his first success under rules — and travelling well in first-time blinkers, Space Cadet burst between last year’s winner Amaulino and Elliott’s General Principle to win by two lengths and deny the eventual runner-up a repeat win.

Ifyoucatchmenow stayed on to take third after the last.

O’Loughlin said: “Unreal, my voice has gone! A great pot to win and it is great for the owner to give me the horse.

“Ben had won his first point-to-point on him and, to tell you the truth, I thought he would run well today, but I said to myself we would be going point-to-pointing again next year.

“It was a big shock to me, but obviously the blinkers worked a treat. I kind of had been holding off and holding off having them on him.

“I think they made all the difference and I probably have learned how to train him — the key to training him is not to train him! He hasn’t done a stroke since he ran the last day.

“This is Ben’s first winner (on the track). He comes into me as often as he can. He is in two mornings and he is a big part of the team. I just thought he knows him and the 7lb off would help. He gets on as well as anybody with the horse.

“That’s his (Space Cadet’s) third National this year, so third time lucky!

“We’ll have to think about an Irish National now as he will be high enough rated after that.”

Earlier jockey Luke Dempsey made the most of an unexpected opportunity as The Very Man continued his return to form with a decisive victory in the WKD Rated Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott found another opportunity for The Very Man, whose maiden hurdle success at Naas last month was his first since a Navan bumper win in December 2018.

Dempsey was taking over in the saddle from Davy Russell — who sat out his Sunday rides, still feeling sore after a spill at Thurles 24 hours earlier.

Russell’s replacement had the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old bang in contention entering the straight as they and outsider Jimmy Two Times took over from Kasakh Noir.

It still looked a good battle at the last, but The Very Man then surged clear to win by eight lengths at 9-4, with favourite Wajaaha collaring Jimmy Two Times for second.

Elliott expects the winner to continue to improve.

He said: “He’s a grand sort. He had been beaten a few times, but in fairness to him he had some lovely runs and bumped into a few (decent) horses.

“I like the way he stayed galloping — he’ll be OK.”

Meanwhile the opening Connolly's RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle went to Barnaviddaun, ridden by David Mullins for his father, Tom.

It was a second successive winning ride for Mullins, following his graded success on Zero Ten at Thurles.

He had the 9-2 shot just in front running to the second-last, and they stayed on best to win by half a length from Hesamanofhisword, with hard-pulling favourite Vinnie Is Busy having to settle for third.

The winner was breaking his duck after being second the last twice, and Mullins said: “His last two runs were probably a bit sharp for him around Leopardstown, and I was only getting to know him around Fairyhouse.

“He stays well and is a big chaser in the making. He’s a well-deserved winner and it is great for his owner.”