Strong and stylish Sweeney takes Foxhunters on Salsify

The talented Colman Sweeney gave Salsify as good a drive as you could wish to see to land the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase.

The rapidly improving seven-year-old is trained at Castlelyons, Co Cork by his father, Rodger, and carried the colours of his mother, Joan.

“This is a lifetime dream fulfilled,” said Rodger, as he was showered with congratulations by many faces especially familiar on the point-to-point scene.

“The plan was to go back on the boat at 7pm and we will stick to that, the horse has to be looked after.”

Asked if he backed the horse, Rodger responded, with a real twinkle in his eye: “I had a little bet.”

Colman was absolutely superb, dropping Salsify out at the back with almost frightening confidence.

Gradually, he worked him into the race, but still refused to make his move for much of the straight.

But when he asked his partner for maximum effort the answer was electric and Salsify powered away from the last to beat the heavily-backed Chapoturgeon.

“When Colman won this race in 2005 for Paul Nicholls I was proud of him and I’m proud of him today,” said Sweeney senior.

“Tom O’Mahony bought the horse for us. We sold Michael Flips here and with the money bought three horses, including this one.

“We’re point-to-point people and we enjoy it, so to win this race is everything. There’s not a race I could want to win more.

“We were here when Colman won on Sleeping Night, but this caps it.”

Commented Colman: “The first win was special, but this tops it because it is for my parents. Last year my good friend, Richard Harding, rode the horse, because I got injured and had 18 months out of the saddle.

“During that time I got married, did a degree course in computers and put on a bit of weight.

“But in November my wife, Niamh, and my parents encouraged me to get fit and ride Salsify for the season ahead.”

In November Sweeney weighed 13st 10lb, but stripped at 11st 4lbs yesterday. I’d say he thought such a weight loss was more than worth the effort.

There was a sting in the tail for the rider, however, and he was suspended for two days for using his whip once above the limit of eight and for two days for not giving his horse time to respond.

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