Tony Martin must have given something in the region of a dozen interviews in as many minutes after Bryan Cooper guided Ted Veale to victory in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle yesterday.
It was a workload that soon overwhelmed his delicate vocal chords.
As the words tumbled out, they grew fainter and fainter, lost behind a wheezing croak of increasing proportions that prompted one interviewer to suggest lightheartedly that perhaps they should use sign language to continue the conversation.
“We had a rough night last night,” Martin explained. “We celebrated last night and we were lucky to get here today. I’m booked to go home today but we might just delay that now.”
They earned one more night.
Benefficient’s success in the opening Jewson Novices’ Chase on day three had propelled young jockey Bryan Cooper into the spotlight but it was a reaffirmation of the trainer’s abilities six years after his last Festival success.
One of Benefficient’s co-owners, Niall Reilly, said as much. Martin’s tactics had been “10,000% right,” according to the elated connections. Martin had taken them aside prior to the race and explained exactly how it would unfold.
Minutes later, they found themselves watching those words come to life as the young Kerry pilot gutted it out ahead of the pre-race favourite Dynaste to stun to silence a crowd taken aback by this unheralded 20/1 shot.
“The man is a genius,” Reilly said of Martin.
Momentum is key at Cheltenham. No-one could have predicted, for example, Paul Nicholls would suffer such a barren week but Cooper and Martin are proof of how success can breed success.
Martin came to Cheltenham this year seeking his first winner since Dun Doire captured the William Hill Trophy in 2006, three years after breaking his duck with Xenophon in the Coral Cup. Now this: two in two days.
How does it feel?
“I don’t know what ye have over here,” he told one English reporter, “but we have Croke Park in September with 100,000 at an All-Ireland final and that’s what it is like coming here.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for him this week. Is it ever? Martin’s Bog Warrior started off a fancied runner in Thursday’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle but had to contend with a late change of jockey when Cooper replaced the injured Davy Russell and then the nine-year old got hurt coming down the hill.
“It’s the ups and downs of racing,” he said. “After the first (race on Thursday) I was ecstatic with the lads and then we were brought down to earth with poor Bog Warrior getting that injury.”
Ted Veale had given him cause for concern as well. “We started thinking about this race last year and after we had a few disappointments we decided to save him for the Boylesports in Leopardstown but things went against him. The ground was too soft and he travelled well to the last, like today, but didn’t get home in the ground. Thankfully it all worked out well and I was just hoping that he wouldn’t fall over at the last.”
He needn’t have worried.
As with Benefficient, Martin issued Cooper with specific instructions and the 20-year old from Tralee followed them to a tee with a ride that added greater lustre to his reputation.
“Bryan gave him a great ride,” Martin said, his voice by now barely discernible. “He is riding with supreme confidence. I said (Thursday) he is the new kid on the block and it is great to have him.
“We have used him for a while now and you could always see the potential, the championship rider, in him. You have Ruby and Geraghty and Russell and Carberry who haven’t too long left but this fella is only on the way up. I was fortunate enough to have Walsh and Carberry work for me for a long time. I’m not writing them off but I would hope to be able to secure this fella’s services for a little while longer.”
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