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Limerick: Imperial Call is back; Former Gold Cup winner puts in fine round of jumping to win Munster National.

A crowd of almost 6,000 gave Imperial Call a rousing reception after the 1996 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero gave one of his best-ever rounds of jumping to land the Murphy's Irish Stout Munster National, writes Tony O'Hehir.

Running for the first time since he finished lame in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, Imperial Call won by a length from Tell The Nipper, whom he jumped past at the final fence.

Winning rider Conor O'Dwyer said afterwards: "He was spot-on, settled well and jumped super. I know the second horse was 19lb wrong at the weights, but it was a good effort with 12st first time up."

In view of the nine-year-old's history of injuries, the Lisselan Farm team-main man David Blackburn and his wife Ursula were present yesterday, along with Imperial Call's former trainer Fergie Sutherland-will be hoping for a clean bill of health when their star chaser is checked over this morning.

Raymond Hurley, 23, from Clonakilty, currently trains Imperial Call and he was quick to praise the part played in the gelding's preparation by Dinny Daly, whose application to train Imperial Call and other horses in the same ownership was turned down by the Turf Club, a decision which is under appeal.

Hurley said: "Dinny still does most of the work with the horse. Imperial Call has done a lot of slow work and will improve a lot."

Fergie Sutherland, still involved in an advisory capacity, said: "I go down to have a word in the old horse's ear a few times a week. He was super today."

The City Life Cork National on November 1 or the Morris Oil Chase at Clonmel four days later will be considered for Imperial Call's next race.

Deejaydee, who made a couple of costly mistakes when finishing fourth in the National Hunt Chase in March, will again have that Cheltenham Festival marathon as his target this season.

Michael Hourigan confirmed that race as the six-year-old's long-term objective after he had stayed on under pressure from the last to beat Native Wit by one length in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle.

Winning rider Kevin O'Brien announced his retirement immediately after the race.

Hourigan said: "I'm delighted Kevin has bowed out on a winner trained by me. We had many good years together. Mind you there was a doubt about Deejaydee running. He hasn't had a saddle on him for the past five days due to an abcess on a foot."

Willie Mullins, who returned last weekend from a holiday in South Africa, landed a double, with Super High making all under David Casey in the two- and-a-half-mile novice hurdle and Bob Cullen, who scored a six-length win in the two-mile-one-furlong handicap hurdle.

Super High, a four-time winner on the all-weather in England, was scoring his second win for Mullins and his first for the Inter Country Syndicate, described by Mullins as an "off-shoot of the syndicate which owned my Galway Hurdle winner Mystical City."

Mullins added: "Super High will stick to novice hurdles this season and he obviously stays well, although I was a bit worried about the trip today."

Ruby Walsh, whose mount Daraheen Chief found little off the bridle when beaten three-quarters of a length by Super High, completed the Mullins double and brought his own score for the season to 30 when guiding Bob Cullen to victory in the handicap.

Bob Cullen is owned by the 11-member Big Fort Syndicate, most of whom hail from the Rathmore area of Co Kerry. Syndicate leader Derry Sheahan said: "Our red and white colours are those of the Rathmore GAA Club. Bob Cullen is our first horse and Willie is keen to try and win a Flat race with him before the end of the season."

John Joseph Murphy, based at Inishannon, Co Cork, where he trains 20 horses, had his first win since taking out a full licence, and his third overall, when Lord Heavens (Paul Carberry) made all, surviving a few mistakes, to land the two-and-three-quarter-mile novice chase by eight lengths.

Adrian O'Shea was taken to hospital for x-rays on a suspected broken left wrist following a fall from Master Kemal in this race.

Sunset Lodge (Kevin O'Sullivan), backed from 4-1 to 6-4, took the two- mile-one-furlong bumper for trainer Charles Byrnes, who said: "We've schooled him over hurdles, but I don't expect to run him again for about six weeks."

Philip Fenton landed the two-and-a-half-mile mares' bumper on Annie Cares.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:O'Hehir, Tony
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 19, 1998
Words:745
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