DURING his hugely successful tenure as secretary-manager at Killarney Racecourse from 1977 to 1991, the late Finbarr Slattery led a high-profile campaign seeking the introduction of a Killarney National, a race he insisted would be a very significant event and a big attraction at the local track.
His dream came true when the inaugural event was staged some years ago and last night the Handicap Steeplechase he helped launch reached dizzy heights by becoming the richest race at Killarney in 2019 with a value of a whopping €65,000.
Now sponsored by Tote Ireland, as the company continues to expand on its impressive sponsorship portfolio across the country, the winner of the 2019 Killarney National received a cool €41,300.
Fittingly, perhaps, as it was a race founded by a proud Kerryman, it was a fellow Kingdom native that stole the show last night with star 20-year-old Jack Kennedy from Dingle piloting 7/1 shot Swingbridge to victory for trainer Gordon Elliot.
The brilliant Kennedy got on terms three from home and pushed on after two to win in a canter ahead of the JP McManus owned Auvergnat – who won the race in 2017 – to spark off great celebrations at the Ross Road track.
Although Finbarr Slattery passed away in 2017, his memory lives on at the track to which he devoted much of his life and he was very much in the thoughts of many punters last night as the race he was responsible for was the undisputed highlight of the second day of the three-day festival.
Finbarr was a legendary personality in Irish horseracing circles having persuaded the great Lester Piggott and Princess Haya of Jordan to race in Killarney. He also organised and hosted the Dublin millennium celebrations at the track in 1988, when Lord Mayor Carmencita Hederman was the VIP guest, and he published a highly-regarded book on the Sport of Kings, titled Following the Horses.
The final day of the Killarney May meeting will get underway at 5.20pm today with a seven-race card.
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