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RACING: Limestone Lad gives Festival hint.

LIMESTONE LAD, the pride of Ireland, showed his customary fighting spirit at Fairyhouse on Sunday and is on target for the Cheltenham Festival.

Now the winner of 27 races from 51 starts, the remarkable gelding belied lack of market confidence to beat both Liss A Paoraigh and Ned Kelly in the Ballymore Properties Hatton's Grace Hurdle.

Making all the running, as he had done when claiming Istabraq's scalp in the two-and-a-half mile event two seasons ago, Limestone Lad was brilliantly ridden by Paul Carberry to delight his huge following in a memorable contest.

Tony McCoy tried everything he could on the runner-up, who took the fight to Limestone Lad when Ned Kelly began to falter rounding the last bend.

Ned Kelly was subsequently found to have burst a blood vessel.

Limestone Lad is as low as 9-2 second-favourite with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power for the Stayers' Hurdle.

Carberry came in for plenty of praise after his performance on the winner from Michael Bowe, who does all the work at home with the nine-year-old.

"Paul has been brilliant on our horse and I have always been trying to get him on Limestone Lad for this season," Bowe commented. "I was beginning to lose confidence before the race - so many of the others were strongly fancied."

Limestone Lad is due to reappear in a fortnight at Navan before going on to Leopardstown for another conditions hurdle.

"He is happiest racing frequently and the more you take him racing the more he likes it," Bowe added.

"We will enter him in the Champion Hurdle as well as the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he would only run in the Champion if Istabraq wasn't there and the ground was very soft."

Carberry, who had been bustling the winner along from half-way reported that Limestone Lad "picked up when he heard the second horse coming to challenge" and quickened once more away from the final flight to emphasise his dominance on the Irish scene over a trip in soft ground.

Ned Kelly's trainer Edward O'Grady would make no comment about the horse other than to confirm the five-year-old had burst a blood vessel. Leading owner J P McManus had a hat-trick on the day, including another success for the unbeaten Like-A-Butterfly.

He still has a lot to learn about jumping according to trainer Christy Roche, whose outstanding mare was cut to 7-2 favourite from 6-1 by Cashmans of Cork for Cheltenham's Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 3, 2001
Words:409
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