Swan's victory earns four-day suspension


CHARLIE SWAN incurred a four-day suspension for excessive use of the whip when landing Aidan O'Brien's Leopardstown Chase winner Royal Mountbrowne the head winner of yesterday's Aer Rianta Duty Free Handicap Chase from Vital Trix at Fairyhouse.

The six times champion, who rode his first winner of the three day meeting on Royal Mountbrowne, begins his suspension on April 19th, ending on the 22nd, one day before the Punchestown Festival.

In a dour struggle from the second last, the Conor O'Dwyer partnered Vital Trix put his head in front 20 yards out only to surrender to the battling Royal Mountbrowne in the very last stride.

Arguably, Swan had rarely ridden a better race and his mount, who responded gallantly, would certainly not have won without such pressure. Swan, who says he has not been carpeted for a similar offence for, four years, will consider appealing.

Overnight rain eased the going a little and this helped the Jimmy FitzGerald trained Uncle Ernie, who in winning the featured Oliver Freaney and Dan Moore Handicap Chase, going away by four and a half lengths from Monalee River gained ample compensation for the short head defeat of stable companion Nijmegen in Tuesday's Bisquit Cognac Handicap Hurdle.

A first Fairyhouse winner for FitzGerald since Tickite Boo won the Power Gold Cup in 1987, the 11 year old Uncle Ernie, who was winning his first race this season, tracked Monalee River in the straight and, jumping better than his rival over the last, got the upper hand in the closing stages.

This win also compensated Mark Dwyer, runner up on Jodami in the Irish Grand National and again on Nijmegen though Huncheon Chance was successful for him on Monday.

FitzGerald, who was born near Horse and Jockey, Co Tipperary and has trained for many years at Malton, Yorkshire, would like to return Uncle Ernie to Punchestown, for the BMW Drogheda Handicap Chase, the objective of compatriot Viking Flagship (who runs at Cheltenham today).

"At least, he will run if the ground is not too firm and if he is not too far out of the handicap," added Fitzgerald, who claims his charge loves this time of year.

The trainer also plans to run Asistment in Punchestown's Champion Bumper. Successful at Haydock in January, Agistment, finished sixth behind Wither Or Which in the Festival Bumper, with stable companion Alzulu in second place.

Paul Carberry had to work hard to land Dawn Alert the one length winner of the opening Seamus Maguire Maiden Hurdle from Getting Closer. Phonsie O'Brien's Strong Gale gelding was never really travelling, though he appeared to be only cruising when improving on the inside before the final turn.

"I'm just waiting to put him over fences," said Noel Meade and, indeed, chasing may be the forte of the seven year old winner, who was bred by Sean O Brien, a garda from Galway. If there is a race to suit him he will probably run at Punchestown.

Meade and Caterry, were also expected to win the O'Dea Crop Flex Nutrition Festival Novice Hurdle with The Latvian Lark who had run so well at Cheltenham, but this course winner disappointed.

The race was won by the Richard Dunwoody partnered Macallister, seven lengths adrift of The Latvian Lark in a maiden hurdle here in February but since, successful at Leopardstown. Victor Bowens' hard ridden charge just held the challenge of Mulkev Prince. Believe it or not, this was Dunwoody's first win in Ireland since early February.

Meade, who trains near Navan and has a good strike rate at Fairyhouse, saddled five winners at the three day meeting and his former protege Paul Carberry was top jockey with four winners.

He collected a cheque for £2,000 and a trophy, presented by Goffs who sponsored the leading rider, award.

There were thrills and spills in the Tattersalls Mares Hurdle Championship when Woodville Star be inning to forge well clear of Rahan Bridge after the second last, crashed through the wing of the final obstacle, and unseated his partner. This, left Rahan Bridge, clear but just as Mark Dwyer's mount was poised for a most fortuitous victory Bold Tipperary and 5lb claimer John Butleer fairly flew home to wrest a narrow win.

There was a bumper attendance of almost 25,000 on Easter Monday when a new tote record of almost £309,000 was recorded. Attendances of 40,000 over the Festival equals the modern day, record established in 1993.

The jackpot was not won leaving a pool of £15,000 carried forward, to the next Fairyhouse meeting on May 22th. Spare a thought for the solitary punter who had nominated Woodville Star for the concluding leg!