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  Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Florida Pearl shines at Aintree
Florida Pearl
Florida Pearl had been withdrawn from the National
Click here for Thursday's Aintree action, race by race

Grand National absentee Florida Pearl strode to a comprehensive dozen-length victory in the Martell Cup Chase Showcase.

The Irish-trained runner had been expected to run in Saturday's National but, after being given top weight, was withdrawn to race at Aintree on Thursday.

It was Florida Pearl's 13th win in just 25 starts and the most impressive performance since winning the King George VI at Kempton last December.

Trainer Willie Mullins said he felt he had made the right decision to pull it out of the National.

He said: "I am happy to win this one but we might look at coming back for the National next year."

Jonjo O'Neill
O'Neill enjoyed two winners
Florida Pearl took the lead for the first time over the Aintree course as the field came round for the start of the second circuit.

The 5-2 shot, ridden by Barry Geraghty, was rarely troubled from there as the challenges of Tony McCoy on Cyfor Malta and race favourite Lord Noelie ended someway behind.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill pulled off a double winner as Sudden Shock and Quazar romped to victory on the same card.

Sudden Shock produced the surprise of the day as the 33-1 shot by holding off Iris Royal and Freetown in the Martell Handicap Hurdle.

Quazar endured a much tighter race after jockey Tony Dobbin was carried over the final fence neck and neck with Abbot.

Dobbin, though, lifted the tempo to pull well clear at the finishing post.


This is by a long way my biggest moment in the sport
Polly Gundry

Polly Gundry was triumphant in the day's amateur race - the Martell Fox Hunters' Chase - winning on Torduff Express and beating another National reject, Gunner Welburn, into second.

Gundry became only the third woman in history to win over the National fences in the process, emulating Caroline Beasley and Anthea Farrell.

And Gundry said: "This is by a long way my biggest moment in the sport. I thought I couldn't win.

"It really went copybook. It was like being a field marshal rather than one of the field in a hunting field. He never put a foot wrong."

The day's racing was preceded by a minute's silence in honour of the Queen Mother.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's racing correspondant Cornelius Lysaght
"Florida Pearl jumped and galloped with a rare verve"
Florida Pearl's jockey Barry Geraghty
"He jumped brillantly"
Florida Pearl's trainer Willie Mullins
"We thought he was in great form."
The world's most famous steeplechase

Bindaree's triumph

Our man at Aintree

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Links to more Grand National 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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