Golden Spear’s big Galway moment

While Tony Martin was out of luck in his bid for a hat-trick of Galway Hurdle victories on Thursday, the Meath trainer was back amongst the winners last night when Golden Spear landed some tidy bets in the featured Guinness Premier Handicap, and Heartbreak City belied market weakness in the opening handicap hurdle.

Golden Spear was a costly loser when runner-up in the same race last year when the winner was none other than Thursday’s Galway Hurdle hero, Clondaw Warrior.

There was no such rival this time and the now five-year-old, returning from nine months off, justified support from 6-1 to 10-3 favourite when leading in the straight for a cosy half-length success over Abraham.

“He ran a blinder in this race last year, but was no match for Clondaw Warrior,” said Martin. “A month ago I wouldn’t have considered running him, but he really started to come to himself in the last fortnight, and his coat began to shine.”

Golden Spear’s success completed the more-than 16-1 double for the handler, after a confident ride from one of the men of the moment, claimer Donagh Meyler, had worked a treat aboard Heartbreak City in the opening handicap hurdle.

Owners Aidan Shields and Niall Reilly had flown in from New York in the morning to see their charge in action, and the trip proved worthwhile. After travelling stylishly throughout the only danger came on the approach to the last, where he was short of room. But, typical of a Martin runner, he was able to quicken up, and asserted late for a very comfortable victory.

“He was unlucky here last year,” said Martin. “A good man, Gareth Swan, owned him that day and unfortunately he passed away since, and passed the horse on to his friends.”

Of the winning rider, he added: “Yer man is riding with confidence. It was a ballsy ride, but that’s what makes jockeys. He’s had a great week, he won the Plate, and I told him to ride him with plenty of balls and if it works it works, and there’ll be no-one giving out to you if it doesn’t.

“Galway is a very hard place to ride, but yer man has come of age, with the ride he gave that fella.”

A nursery beckons for Lost In Silence, who was an easy-to-back 11-8 winner of the two-year-olds’ maiden for Dermot Weld. “The draw was a worry but it was a good ride from Pat (Smullen) to get her across from 10. She’s a tough, genuine filly.”

A trying week for trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Davy Russell received a lift when they combined to take the Galway Blazers Handicap Chase with On Fiddlers Green.

“Lovely to get a winner here for the owners, and for us, because we’ve struggled this week,” said De Bromhead.

“The horse did it well. I don’t know where we’ll go next. The Munster National is a possibility, and he seemed to love it around here so he might get back here in years to come.”

Winning jockey Declan McDonogh was enthusiastic in his praise for the Willie Mullins-trained Ivan Grozny, runaway winner of the Guinness Race over 14 furlongs.

“He’s as good a staying horse as I have ever ridden,” said the rider. “The rise of the hill on the first circuit helped him settle. He covers some ground, and you don’t know how far he could go. Willie said he could go for the Ebor now.”

Trainer Michael O’Callaghan is one of the brigade of young trainers making quite a splash on the Flat racing scene, and his Intrepid Prince landed a touch (20-1 to 7-1) in the Arthur Guinness Handicap.

Leigh Roche, earlier successful aboard Golden Spear, was in the plate to complete a personal 33-1 double, and had the luxury of easing down after his mount coasted clear early in the straight.

O’Callaghan said: “We liked him last year, and decided we’d pick a race for him, and what better place than Galway? We brought him in later than the other horses, and he has done really well. He came on a lot for his last run, and the visor has really helped.

“When we saw the draw yesterday morning, we brought him straight out for more stalls work, as he had to get out well from the wide draw.”

Set for a considerable rise in the ratings, he could have lost an opportunity to race: “He’s in again on Monday at Naas but is 15 in the ballot, so may not get in,” added O’Callaghan.

The principals in the final race, Triplicate and Zulu Alpha, flip-flopped a couple of times before the latter was sent off favourite.

However, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Triplicate proved vastly superior, racing clear to a nine-length victory.

Asked whether the winner was a group horse in the making, winning jockey Donnacha O’Brien said: “He could be, but he’s still a bit weak. He could go for a handicap next.”

There was good news for track management as the attendance of 27,093 was considerably up on last year’s 21,532, and Tote turnover was €1,270,137, compared to €668,254 in 2015. There was a continued fall in bookmakers’ turnover, however, from €1,920,224 in 2015 to €1,626,663.


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