20 March 2022

Spades Are Trumps proves ace in Ulster National pack

20 March 2022

Spades Are Trumps proved the ace in the pack when running out a convincing winner of the Randox Ulster National Handicap Chase at Downpatrick.

The nine-year-old, owned by JP McManus, trained by Gavin Cromwell and ridden by 7lb claimer Mark McDonagh, led at the final fence and sped away from his rivals.

All three named were continuing their fine recent form, having been on the scoreboard at the Cheltenham Festival.

There was an incident-packed start to the race with six casualties at the first two fences, including the 3-1 favourite Portstorm.

Notice To Close took the remainder along for most of the way until he weakened out of contention by the third-last fence.

It was a wide-open affair at that point, with Agent Boru making his bid for glory, but Spades Are Trumps (5-1) was going ominously well and soon stamped his authority on proceedings.

He pulled clear to score by six lengths from Agent Boru, with the winner’s stablemate Peaches And Cream six and half lengths away in third place.

McDonagh said: “A great week. I want to thank everyone for giving me opportunities, but for them I wouldn’t be here.

“He just took to the course, he travelled well and enjoyed being in and out.

“A lot of horses fell in the race. I’m sure if everybody stood up it could have been different.”

Mark McDonagh celebrates with Banbridge at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

On his victory on Banbridge in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, he said: “It was great, Joseph O’Brien has been good to me. I’ve been with him since January.

“The experience I am getting in the yard and office is great. To get opportunities on top of that is a bonus.

“There is not a single word that describes it. I’ve heard people call things indescribable and now it makes sense.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox