Miss proves a hit in Hurdle

What a wizard this Michael Winters is! A year ago he produced Rebel Fitz to land the Guinness Galway Hurdle and returned to Ballybrit yesterday to win the race again, this time with the cracking mare Missunited.

Miss proves a hit in Hurdle

The scenes in the winner’s enclosure twelve months earlier were quite extraordinary, but the celebrations on this occasion were at least a close second.

There aren’t many airs and graces to Winters, he’s just a bloody good trainer. He was achieving something that hadn’t been done since the legendary Paddy Sleator in 1957-58, winning back-to-back Hurdles with two different horses. Sleator did it with Tymon Castle and Knight Errant.

Indeed, the Galway Hurdle has only been won by the same trainer in consecutive seasons on six occasions. The last to do it was Noel Meade with Pinch Hitter in 1982-83. The last mare to win the race was Black Queen for John Kiely in 1998.

Robbie Power was in the plate and he produced Missunited to hit the front coming away from the second last.

Flaxen Flare was soon chasing hard, but his jumping early on was a trifle hit-and-miss and he was never going to close down the winner.

Said Winters: “I’ve had this mapped out for the last twelve months. I was confident she was going to win coming down the hill, she stays.

“Last year I mucked out 20 stables the next morning, this year I’m ready for it! She has been a good mare for a long time.

“I couldn’t believe Barry Geraghty wouldn’t ride her (went with favourite, Ted Veale).

“We would have liked Jason Maguire, but he couldn’t do the weight. Martin Ferris did a great job schooling her and was probably unlucky not to have ridden.

“She is only coming to herself and will now run in a Group 3 at the Curragh (August 24). My own long term plan would be the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.”

Missunited carried the colours of Vanessa Hutch, originally from Kildare, who also bred her. Vanessa is married to Dan Hutch, who is the local vet in Kanturk.

For Power it was a first win in the Hurdle, although he did land the Plate aboard Nearly A Moose in 2003. He was trained by the late Paddy Mullins.

Said Power: “It worked out perfectly. We aimed to be handy and got a lovely position starting off.

“She jumped and travelled through the race so well. As soon as I turned in, three or four strides before the last, she pricked her ears, so I knew I had enough left. She didn’t jump the last grand, but got away from it quick.”

Winters began a memorable afternoon in style when his Rebel Fitz completed a hat-trick of successes with a smooth display in the Guinness Mid-Strength Novice Chase.

Last year’s Galway Hurdle hero travelled sweetly just off the pace, but looked in trouble momentarily down in the dip.

But he soon came swinging back on the bridle for Barry Geraghty and was galloping all over gallant second, Sizing Italy, up the straight.

Commented Winters: “A small bit of class got him through, his jumping was solid and careful.

“I had reservations about running, but walked the track and it was grand and loose, he was able to do three quarter speed. He will stay novice chasing, but will have a break in the winter.”

Dermot Weld eased onto the six-winner mark for the week — there were two more to come later on — when Yellow Rosebud justified favouritism in the Listed Guinness EBF Corrib Fillies Stakes.

She raced on the pace throughout for Pat Smullen and then kicked right away off the home turn.

The somewhat slow starting Snow Queen was doing all of her best work at the end, but was still almost three lengths adrift at the line.

Said Weld: “I was pretty confident, she was a shade unlucky (finished second) in this race last year.

“She is very sound and adaptable and I might travel her a bit. I am looking at one or two races in America.”

Winner number seven arrived when Treasure The Ridge justified favouritism in the IRFU Charitable Trust Handicap.

He was the sixth of the week for Pat Smullen, who was superb, producing the Galileo gelding with perfect timing to sweep ahead inside the furlong pole.

“That was workmanlike”, said Weld. “He’s good tough horse and it was a great drive by the pilot.”

Weld then completed a treble when the newcomer, Dont Tell No One, owned by RTE’s Brian Gleeson, took the Bumper.

Shark Hanlon’s Giantofaman gave the contest away. He appeared to have this in safe keeping early in the straight, but hung like a gate from the furlong pole and proved almost impossible to ride.

Robbie McNamara then grabbed the opportunity and, in the end, Dont Tell No One was a snug winner.

Said Weld: “I want to dedicate this to the late Colm Murray. He is a horse with a future, I thought the race was coming maybe two weeks too early for him.”

Bally Longford, easy winner of his maiden at Clonmel, continued on the upgrade with a game effort in the Arthur Guinness Projects Novice Hurdle.

He was always travelling well within himself and looked set for an easy victory when asked to lead over the second last by Andrew Lynch.

Bally Longford was still nicely clear at the last, but then Our Man Zebo began to stay on and was only half a length behind at the line.

“We will go the novice hurdle route with him”, said trainer, Willie Mullins. “His jumping is electric and, I’d imagine, he will head to Killarney and Listowel.”

Spring Heeled went off a warm favourite for the Perfect Pint Beginners Chase and looked the likely winner when landing in front two out.

He still held the call off the home turn, but Dessie Hughes’ Golden Wonder was staying on to real effect and wore down the hot-pot on the run in to score by three and a half lengths.

Said Hughes: “That’s his first time over fences, but he did point-to-point before coming to us.

“I’m very pleased, he jumped like a real chaser. I thought he wanted better ground and it is a big bonus he has gone on this.”

David Marnane’s Maundy Money may now be a ten-year-old, but made it three from three of late when taking the Guinness Time Handicap.

Beautifully handled by the very polished Connor King, enjoying a first ever success at the festival, the winner eased past front running Parkers Mill off the home turn and was soon in control. Said Marnane: “He’s a super horse and goes on any ground. This is the sixth year in-a-row he has run at Galway.”

- The attendance was 27,669, down from 37,033 last year. It was understandable, however, because the weather was appalling for most of the day.

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