Coltor, ridden by last year’s big-race hero Finny Maguire, bagged another Connacht Hotel Amateur Handicap for Dermot Weld on the opening day of Galway 2021.
Last year, Maguire struck on subsequent Group 1 winner Princess Zoe and, 12 months on, he galvanised Coltor, in the colours of Mischa Bucher, to wear down the Willie Mullins-trained Foveros, bidding to give rider Aubrey McMahon a third win in the race, inside the final furlong.
The winner, chasing long-time leader Litterale Ci and the runner-up into the straight, was switched to challenge on the outside and stayed on dourly to earn the spoils by three-quarters of a length.
Weld revelled in his latest big-race win at Ballybrit, explaining “I won this race four times as a rider, including on Ticonderoga, for my late father, when I was only 15. I’ve won it seven or eight times as a trainer so it’s been a lucky race for us.”
The record books show that Weld also won it three times on Spanner, which he also trained, in the early ’70s. Coltor’s victory was his eighth as a trainer in the race.
“Finian gave him a peach of a ride,” he stated, “He’s an outstanding young rider and came back from France to ride my two horses today. Of course, his father (Adrian) won a Galway Plate for me on General Idea.
“Coltor is a tough horse. He likes good ground and might go for a two-mile handicap in York next month.He’ll go back over hurdles over the winter, although he doesn’t want it too soft.”
The meeting opened with success for local jockey Leigh Roche, from Tuam, on board Michael O’Callaghan’s I A Magic (15/2), who made every yard of the running and held off the late surge of favourite Anchorage and well-backed newcomer Due De Sessa by a neck and a head in the Claregalwayhotel.ie 2-Y-0 Maiden.
The Magician colt was confirming Naas form with the runner-up and a delighted O’Callaghan stated: “We’ve always thought a lot of him and that was a lovely performance.
“He came on from Naas and,when I spoke to Leigh about tactics on Saturday, we agreed to let him roll along. It’s not easy to do here but he has natural paceand stays well.
“He’ll go into stakes company now – he has a Futurity (Group 2) entry, but we have options in the UK and he’ll be stepping-up to a mile.”
Joseph O’Brien, who will be well-represented in all spheres this week, struck with Merroir in the Easyfix Handicap, Dylan Browne McMonagle’s mount proving two and a half lengths superior to 40/1 shot Nibiru with No Thanks in third.
O’Brien’s representative Brendan Powell said: “That was a very tough performance.
“The rain came in time for her and Dylan was happy that he was in a good place all the way.
“She’s tough and hardy, not very big, but she digs deep. Her owner (Max Morris) is a breeder, so I’m sure Joseph will have a go at some black type, in soft ground.”
Ciaran Murphy tasted Galway Festival success for the first time as a trainer when Black Cat Bobby, in the colours of former licence-holder Dot Love, prevailed in a blanket-finish to the seven-furlong Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap.
Ridden by apprentice Gavin Ryan, leading rider at the 2020 Festival, the Bobby’s Kitten gelding overcame a high draw and dug deep to get the better of Li Mu Bai by a neck, with favourite Zumoradda, Rock Etoile and Cisco Disco all close behind. The winner is likely to reappear here at the weekend.
“We’ve been baffled by her runs compared to her work,” admitted Shane Foley after he brought 18/1 shot Maud Gonne Spirit, trained by Jessica Harrington, with a well-timed late challenge to master Turbine in the Galwaybayhotel.com & Galmont.com Handicap over seven furlongs.
Headded, “They went good and fast and the rain is getting into the ground, which helped her. I couldn’t have gotten a nicer run through.”
Harrington and Foley completed a double when recent Killarney maiden winner Citronnade outpointed top-weight Port Sunlight in the Eventus Handicap.
Patrick Mullins has made the Monami (Amateur) Maiden his own in recent years and made it five-in-a- row (and eight wins in total) on board Zero Ten, trained by his cousin Emmet for Mrs Annette Mee.
Zero Ten was described by his trainer as “an extraordinary horse, with a fierce big engine” and boasts an impressive record at Ballybrit, as Mullins pointed out.
“He’s won a bumper, a maiden hurdle, a beginners chase and, now, a Flat maiden here.
“He’s had a lot of issues and it’s been a battle to get him back. But, if he’s okay in the morning, he’ll probably run in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday.”