Sole Pretender gave trainer Norman Lee a landmark victory with a determined performance in the Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary.
Last seen finishing fifth in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, the Paul Townend-ridden seven-year-old was sent off the 5-4 favourite against seven rivals – which included six carrying the green and gold colours of JP McManus.
It would have been seven McManus-owned runners in the Grade Three contest had Magic Tricks not been declared a non runner.
He was prominent from flag-fall with Effernock Fizz and Darasso, as none of the others got into it.
When Effernock Fizz began to drop away from before the second-last, the market leader just had Darasso to contend with – and a fluent jump at the last helped to seal matters, with two lengths between them at the line. Modus took third, another 18 lengths back.
Lee said: “To win our first graded race is unreal and we are lucky to even have a horse to contest one, never mind win one. He is a credit to his owner and the lads at home.
“We thought he might be a little short today but every time we think that, he is still good enough and is always there. Paul gave him a great ride and went on the outer for the better ground.
“He has a high enough rating and while he didn’t win by a lot, we will stay in graded company and think about a Galway Hurdle. He shouldn’t go up.”
The trainer added: “We have a dozen horses in at home, he is our stable star. I don’t think three miles worked at Grade One level the last day. Eventually next year we’ll go for a Grade One race again – maybe he is a horse who will win Grade Twos and Threes, but we’ll keep dreaming with him.
“We are over the moon with him and Michael (Hogan, owner) is very important to him as horses like him are usually in big yards. We’ll treat him like the star he is for us.”