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IRISH eyes were smiling at Newbury yesterday - thanks to a hero with the most ENGLISH of names.

Hot favourite Essex, heavily backed at 4-1, bolted up in the totesport Trophy Hurdle.

Trainer Michael O'Brien had been worried about his charge's weight before the race.

But the 11st 6lb burden proved no problem as Essex came home three lengths clear of Bongo Fury.

Jockey Barry Geraghty always had the jolly in a handy position behind early pace-setter Sharp Rigging and switched wide to challenge turning into the straight.

Bongo Fury took it up at the second last but Essex was just hitting top gear in behind and jumped into the lead at the last. Geraghty kept him going and he never looked in trouble as 33-1 shot Bongo Fury and Al Eile (10-1) fought it out for second. Hawadeth (40-1) was fourth.

Farmer Jack muddied the Gold Cup picture as he confounded punters with a battling success in the Aon Chase.

The Philip Hobbs-trained 12-1 chance came into the race with something to prove about his ability to see out the three-mile trip.

But after being headed by Strong Flow at the cross fence five out the Farmer stuck on well under Richard Johnson to regain the advantage.

In the final stages he quickened up to win by a length and a half. Celestial Gold lost his unbeaten record for the season, finishing a head further back.

Both horses were eased in the Gold Cup betting by most bookmakers, with Coral pushing out Strong Flow to 14-1.

Totesport pushed out Celestial Gold to 14-1, keeping Strong Flow unchanged at 10s. However, Ladbrokes decided to cut Celestial Gold's price from 12-1 down to 8-1.

Azertyuiop benefited from his main rival Well Chief's sloppy jumping to claim the totepool Game Spirit Chase.

Azertyuiop, the 11-10 favourite, was always travelling well behind Mister McGoldrick and turning for home was going much the best of the three.

Mister McGoldrick dropped away leaving the big two to battle it out.

Azertyuiop was five lengths clear under Ruby Walsh at the last where he brushed through the top. That gave Timmy Murphy a glimmer of hope.

However, Azertyuiop dug deep and got home by two and a half lengths.

Azertyuiop and Moscow Flyer are 7-4 joint favourites with Victor Chandler for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Well Chief out to 3-1 from 9-4.


Punters' pal: Favourite Essex (left) lands the odds in the big race at Newbury; Walsh: On Azertyuiop
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 13, 2005
Previous Article:Racing: A stroll for Hardy.
Next Article:Racing: Q & A with RICHARD JOHNSON.

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