It was almost a fairy tale win for locally owned Darver Star, who was beaten in to third late on in today’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Darver Star went off at 17-2, with the JP McManus owned Epatante (2-1) the big favourite as things got underway in the 3:30pm Class 1 showpiece.
The eight year old, trained by Gavin Cromwell, is owned by local lottery winner, Simon Fagan and friends Sean Fanning and Pat Cluskey, who formed the SSP Number Twentytwo Syndicate – 22 being the bonus ball on the eve of Fagan’s lottery win.
Darver Star came into today’s meeting in fine form, with four wins in his last six starts, as well as two top three finishes at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, respectively.
Ridden by Wexford’s Jonathan Moore, Darver Star was rode quick from the start, eventually taking up a steady position towards the front, just ahead of eventual winner Epatante, ridden by the experienced Barry Geraghty.
It looked as if the fairy tale was about to happen as Darver Star rounded for home in front of the chasing field. It was not to be, as Epatante jumped well at the last and took the lead, racing home by 3L ahead of 16-1 Sharjah. Darver Star finished just 3.75L behind in third, in what was a thrilling finish for onlookers.
The incredible story of Darver Star has gripped the county over the past year with the horse obtaining cult status in the Wee County.
Louth man Fagan struck it lucky when his QuickPick tickets won him €3.6m in 2013, which allowed him the freedom to get become more involved in horse racing. Simon, a huge fan of local sport, acts as umpire for nearby St. Josephs GAA, while also following Dundalk FC home and away.
In keeping with his owner’s passion for local sport, Darver Star ran in the red and white of Louth, for what was his biggest race to date.