At no point did it ever appear likely but somehow the JP McManus-owned Spider Web managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in one of the most thrilling of finishes of the year in Sunday’s Ladbrokes JT McNamara Munster National.
The €100,000 highlight of Limerick Racecourse’s autumn calendar looked to be sewn up by 40-1 rank outsider Na Trachtalai Abu with the winning line in sight, but the mount of Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Luke Dempsey made astonishing late headway after the final fence to prevail by three quarters off a length – pulling off the most improbable of triumphs.
Such was the consensus that the eventual runner-up was home and hosed in the shadows of the post that punters on the Betfair Exchange live-betting markets staked a combined total of £23,614 on Na Trachtalai Abu at 1-100 (the shortest possible odds) inside the final furlong, with a potential profit of just £236.14.
The second’s supporters will have been despairing, while in contrast, £5 was matched on Spider Web at 109-1 in the mid-race betting and pennies at 129-1.
Upon his return to the winner’s enclosure at Greenmount Park, a beaming Dempsey explained he was uncertain of the outcome for much of the contest – including when making a serious mistake at the 11th fence and getting in tighter than ideal to the second last.
“I wasn’t too sure if I was going to get there and was hoping the line would be further and further away” the Kildare native said. “He stuck his head down and battled – it was great.”
He added of trainer Tom Mullins charge: “He fell last time at Galway and Tom wanted to get his confidence back. He jumped brilliant. He flew home and I’d have won better if I hadn’t sat on him and let him get underneath the second-last.”
The 12-1 winner provided JP McManus with his third success since 2013 in the competitive handicap chase named after legendary amateur jockey and Croom native John Thomas McNamara, who died in July 2016 after complications stemming from a fall at the Cheltenham Festival three years earlier which left him paralysed from the neck down.
McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “Luke gave him a lovely ride because the horse had a hard fall at Galway and he sneaked around today. He was travelling reasonably well last time and it shook his confidence a bit, but Tom has done a great job getting him back. It’s a lovely pot to win.”
There was also drama earlier in the contest as Blast Of Koeman took a heavy fall at the sixth fence, appearing to land on top of jockey Phillip Enright. The Kerry native was taken to hospital for further assessment.
Newcastle West jockey Mark Enright also came to grief at the final fence when appearing to have a chance of hitting the frame aboard Its All Guesswork, though he seemed to walk away from the incident unscathed, even if frustrated as kicked his helmet away in disgust.
Rathkeale-based Eric McNamara was responsible for the 7-2 favourite Black Scorpion, who finished a creditable third after producing a bold display of jumping from the front.