Liam Burke achieved a lifetime ambition when the Curraglass trainer’s My Murphy repelled the late challenge of well-backed favourite Mala Beach to land the prestigious Thyestes Chase at a packed Gowran Park yesterday afternoon.
Winner of a Grade 3 hurdle in younger days and runner-up in a Grade 2 novice chase, he contested this race last year and finished an honourable second behind subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam.
Running off the same mark, and not unsupported at odds of 16-1, the ten-year-old was intentionally brought wide throughout by jockey Robbie Power and the ploy worked a treat. Never far off the pace, he took up the running on the turn in to the straight, was joined by Mala Beach at the second-last, but responded generously to pressure to see off that challenger by a length and a quarter.
“I’ve won the Galway Plate and the Irish Arkle, but this is the one that pleases me most,” said thrilled winning trainer Burke. “When I was a young lad, this was the one race I always loved, and wanted to win. I remember listening to it on the radio when The Godfather won it and that’s not today nor yesterday.”
Of the winner, he explained: “He won’t travel in amongst horses, he has to have clear daylight in front of him, and Robbie (Power) was able to do that today. He got a bad fall in Navan one day, and got a kick in the head. It frightened him and he was never the same among horses after that.
“This win is all down to Robbie, he knows the horse inside out and gave him a super ride.
“And the horse deserved to win one like that, he has been knocking on the door, and was second here last year. When he got under the third-last, I thought ‘oh no, here we go again’.
“It’s great to be back amongst the big winners - it’s a hard thing to do these days. The handicapper dropped him a few pounds, which gave him a chance, and he did it well.”
Of future plans, Burke admitted picking up a winner’s cheque for €60,000 allows for some breathing space. “He’ll probably run in the Irish Grand National again (seventh last year), but could go to the Bobbyjo Chase first. I’m not in any panic, because he has a good pot won now.”
It was another positive chapter in what has been a fine season and, in particular, a great week for the winning rider, who scooped a similar prize when steering Henry Higgins to victory in last Sunday’s Coral Handicap Hurdle.
Said Power: “It’s been a fantastic week, a fantastic year and long may it continue.
“I wasn’t keen on running this horse in the Paddy Power Chase but Liam said he had no option because he had to get another run into him before coming back here.
“The tougher it is, the harder the work it is, the more he loves it and, as we weren’t going too quick because of the ground, he got to travel today.
“Once the horses didn’t crowd me and I got my own way, I knew he’d keep plugging away. I keep squeezing away and, when Davy (Russell, on Mala Beach) came to him he picked up.”
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