Time For A Run holds on in three-way photo finish
The Leopardstown run-in can rarely have seemed so long, but Philip Fenton and Time For A Run just held off the pack to land Ireland's richest ever jump race, the £105,000 Paddy Power Handicap Chase on Saturday.
Few horses can be as appropriately named as Time For A Run. Possessed of the kind of cruising speed that allows him to travel easily in all but the very highest company, Time For A Run's power tends to wane when left in front for too long in his races.
It's a trait that hasn't stopped him winning a Leopardstown Chase or a Coral Hurdle at Cheltenham but it's also a trait that gave his rider potential heart failure on Saturday. An almost £60,000 first prize within touching distance, a huge winner for owner J P McManus and Time For A Run seemed to be running up and down on the spot. Fenton's anxiety could almost be felt in the stands.
"I thought that post would never come. Once the rail ended, the rest of the run in was so long. I just thought Christ, will it ever come?" Fenton smiled afterwards with the relief of the vindicated.
The root of Fenton's anxiety had come earlier, however. With the pacesetting Bobbyjo and Shanagarry feeling the strain in the straight, Fenton had a decision to make. Take a pull or go for home earlier than is ideal for Time For A Run.
A career that has made Fenton one of Ireland's top amateurs has included Cheltenham success on Loving Around and a Galway Hurdle on Sagaman, and proved his ability to make split-second decisions. Now he made possibly the most decisive one of his career.
"The two in front came back too soon, so I just said it's do or die, I'll take my chance," Fenton, 30, said.
Time For A Run jumped the last and went three lengths clear but then his nature took over and Lord Singapore, Tell The Nipper and Shanagarry started to close remorselessly. The finishing distances of a head and a neck spoke volumes for how tight the eventual finish was but Fenton's happy grin spoke even more eloquently of the drama involved in the bare figures.
Afterwards, trainer Edward O'Grady nominated the Aintree Grand National as a long-term target for Time For A Run, while McManus expressed a desire to take in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham en-route.
McManus had run three in the race, with Charlie Swan riding O'Grady's other runner, Gimme Five, and he said: "I want to thank Charlie for looking after Time For A Run in the Hennessy at Newbury. If he hadn't pulled him up when he did, we wouldn't have had the same horse today."
His Song won the IAWS Hurdle in a style that suggested there could be no limit to the sort of horse into which he could mature. The Mouse Morris-trained four-year-old had to be rousted up by Richard Hughes to shake off Unarmed after the last, but in taking his hurdles record to three from three, he made Morris' statement that "this one is something special" seem entirely justified.
His Song is owned by former England tennis international David Lloyd and Morris added: "The horse will be entered for Cheltenham and hopefully he'll have one more run before that."
Metastasio could also end up in the Cotswolds in March in the final of the Gold Card Handicap Hurdle after landing the Leopardstown qualifier in thrilling style.
Go Now and Spirit Dancer looked to have the finish to themselves until Metastasio conjured up a renewed effort to get back and win by half a length. Trainer Gerry McArdle immediately proposed the Ladbroke as Metastasio's next run but jockey Harry Rogers had to go to the stewards and collect a three-day ban for using his whip excessively in the finish.
Michael Grassick saddled his first National Hunt winner this season when the newcomer, Executive Decision took the opening maiden hurdle, but it was less happy race for another big flat name, Pat Shanahan suffering a dislocated collar-bone when Simpany came down at the second last.