Emulating his father’s achievements may present as a lifetime’s work for Joseph O’Brien but he is steadily ticking them off, and the Galway Plate became the latest to fall to the Owning Hill trainer as maiden chaser Early Doors landed the feature at Ballybrit.
Twenty-four years after Life Of A Lord completed back-to-back wins in the race for his father, Aidan, O’Brien junior won the race with a horse who has already given him a Cheltenham Festival success.
With just four outings over fences to his name, 7-1 chance Early Doors lacked experience and so a good start and an ability to attack the early fences were key to his chance. Fortunately, he had the experienced Mark Walsh – winner of this race aboard Bob Lingo, in 2012 - on his back and he ensured a good early position was achieved.
To the credit of the winner, he moved well from the outset, made just a couple of minor errors, but remained positioned to strike after jumping the last.
Walsh got a great tune out of him on the long run from the final fence, hit the front inside the furlong marker and, despite idling a touch, held off the run of favourite Royal Rendezvous, with the runner-up’s stablemate, Munster National winner Cabaret Queen, running a terrific race in third place, and Edward O’Grady’s The West’s Awake likewise to take fourth. It was a seventh win in the race for owner JP McManus.
“I’m over the moon,” said O’Brien. “It’s a very special race to win. I remember years ago always hearing about Life Of A Lord winning the race a couple of times for Dad, so it’s very special to win it.
“We’d all love to be there and have the atmosphere that is there every year. Please God next year we’ll be able to make up for it.”
Referring to how the race panned out, O’Brien commented: “I thought Mark got a lovely break. The start was very messy, and I thought Mark did very well to get away good and he got into a lovely rhythm jumping.
“Obviously, experience was the big question mark, but we were delighted to see the rain coming today, that was a big help to him. Mark gave him a fantastic ride. I was a little bit worried that he missed the second-last, but I knew he would be coming home well.
“As I said, it’s very special to win this race, and I’d like to say a big thank you to JP and everyone. Mark gave him a fantastic ride, and all the lads at home have a fantastic job done on the horse.”
Willie Mullins had to settle for second and third in the Plate but had plenty of reason for cheer on the undercard, the first of his three winners coming courtesy of Kaatskill Nap in the two-mile-five maiden hurdle.
Paul Townend’s mount made all the running and, while he hung left up the straight, he had jumped well in the main and the 86-rated Flat horse had plenty in hand to make the breakthrough.
Said Townend: “We got in a nice rhythm early enough, jumped the first well and missed a couple then but got in a rhythm after that and I was just anxious to keep the rhythm going. It was a nice performance. He had the benefit of a run on the flat and it probably helped here, especially with the rain after coming.”
Townend followed up on Bon Retour in the following race, the two-mile-five handicap hurdle. He, too, edged left in the homestraight but stuck to his task gamely to deny the hat-trick-seeking Pilbara.
The well-touted Shewearsitwell gave Mullins his third winner of the day when justifying odds of 1-2 in the mares’ bumper. Patrick Mullins made all aboard the newcomer and she stacked them up in behind before quickening away up the straight for an easy success.
The Very Man added to his recent Roscommon success with a smooth effort in the listed Play The Tote Jackpot Novice Hurdle. Telmesomethinggirl set out to make all but the winner moved well to challenge at the second-last before racing clear to beat the staying-on Getaway Gorgeous.
Said Elliott; “He’s an improving horse, and certainly stepped up since getting nicer ground. He didn’t have a hard race there, but we’ll see how he is in the morning before deciding about running again tomorrow.”
Sean O’Keeffe, who lost his intended ride in the Galway Plate to Davy Russell, is another young rider going places, and he produced Mrs Milner with a perfectly timed run to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Handicap.
Paul Nolan’s mare was having her first run since finishing a well-beaten second behind Larquebuse in a mares’ novice at Leopardstown in March, but the Thurles maiden winner clearly returned in fine shape and stayed on strongly to get the better of Jazzaway.
Trainer Michael Kennedy notched up his second Galway festival when Smithscorner took the Tote Proud Sponsor Of The Galway Races Handicap Chase. Held up most of the way, he had plenty to do turning in but stayed on strongly under a fine ride by Conor Orr to get on top late to deny Powersbomb.
Willie Mullins supplied the odds-on favourite in the finale, the Tote Supporting Irish Racing Since 1930 Bumper, but his Zuma Rock disappointed as Weseekhimhere stretched clear up the straight to provide Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd with another bumper success.