Winton trainer Leda Beck might have had the luck of the Irish on her side, but she still stunned Riccarton today with an unbelievable turnaround to win the $75,000 Grand National Hurdles.
A large southern contingent almost screamed the members' stand down as Irishman Alan Browne whipped the Beck trained Gargamel home in the 125th running of the 4200m hurdles.
Beck's remarkable training performance was more than fitting for one of Riccarton's biggest races of the year.
The four-day turnaround from when Gargamel finished more than 20 lengths behind Prestigiosa in the Sydenham Hurdle last Saturday to blow the field away today was hard to believe.
Gargamel was the outsider of the field at more than $24 for the win. Punters were stunned with most convinced it was a race in three between the Kevin Myers pair of Prestigiosa and Houndscry plus the Graeme and Debbie Rogerson trained Zenocoin.
But neither Beck or Browne were surprised.
''He definitely needed the run on Saturday,'' Beck said.
''I thought he was finishing on strong.''
Browne always believed he was a winning chance.
''I've ridden a lot of horses between Ireland and England and New Zealand and all over the world and I've ridden some nice horses and you know when you're sitting on a half decent one.
''I've always said this horse was special and now he's given me this [Grand National].''
And Brown always had confidence in Beck.
''The thing with Leda Beck, I don't know whether she's underestimated or not, but every horse gets a fair chance, they are well looked after and with her ability that's all they need.''
Anyone who has spent time in the jockey's room will say it is not easy to keep ''Brownie'' quiet, but the biggest win of his career had him lost for words.
''I'm speechless, it's sensational, this is the biggest win of my life,'' Browne said.
Equally impressed was Beck who hobbled into the birdcage on crutches with a bung ankle from a netball injury.
''I've never won a Grand National, this is my biggest race ever,'' she said.
Neither Beck or Browne are superstars of the industry, just hard working battlers who finally got their day in the sun.
Browne, a Dublin native who is based in Rangiora with Kiwi wife Charlene and five-year-old daughter Lucy, has been in New Zealand just over a decade.
He has ridden in dozens of big races, but said nothing could compare to a Grand National Hurdle victory.
Beck said she was absolutely wrapt for the Irishman who had ridden the horse throughout its campaign.
''He definitely deserves this,'' she added.
Beck was also pleased to have claimed the race for the South Island after the North had dominated much of the carnival so far. She also said the rain overnight had undoubtedly helped Gargamel.
''It definitely loosened the track up a bit which suited him.''
The comprehensive four and a half length victory brought out an array of fist pumps from Browne as he passed the post.
Zenocoin loomed as the only danger to Gargamel with 200m to run, but it was the Beck-trained runner who flew high over the final hurdle and then exploded in the final sprint.
Myers took third with Houndscry, but more than 13 lengths off Gargamel and red hot favourite Prestigiosa - the second Myers runner - finished a further length back.
Riccarton trainer Ross Beckett's Supercharged led early, but lost rider Cody Singer on landing from a hurdle.
Myers could not win the hurdle, but the Wanganui trainer continued his impressive run of success when he picked up four wins for the day with Gagarin in the maiden hurdles, Hold The Dream in the 1800 maiden, Caramac in the 1200m maiden and Crikey Cron in the rating 65 2000m in the last race of the day.
- The Press