Fresh from his Galway Hurdle exploits, trainer Tony Martin dominated day five at the Galway Festival, recording a near 144-1 treble with Vive La France, Tudor City and Dark Crusader.
The first leg came in the opening race, the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, from the promising Vive La France. Carrying the colours of Barry Connell, the 14-1 chance was given a patient ride by Adrian Heskin, but travelled noticeably well as he moved forward in the closing stages.
Eased to the front racing to the final hurdle, he pulled clear in the style of a horse that could be going places. His in-form handler said: “The man who owns him is very patient —he knows the game well — and it’s taken from the time we got this horse until now for him to really shine.
“He came from France, and when they come first they take quite a while to acclimatise. But, he had always shown us he was a good horse.”
While his first winner was relatively friendless in the market, the next two were very well backed.
Tudor City, available at 7-1 on Thursday evening and returned 5-2, claimed the middle leg of the treble when getting up late to win the Arthur Guinness 50-70 Handicap, in the hands of Fran Berry.
After breaking well, he was taken back through the field but, under an astute ride, was switched wide mid-race to avoid trouble, and got up late to snatch a narrow victory.
The treble was completed by talented mare Dark Crusader (7-4), who took the finale in good style. A little keen early, she then settled into a rhythm and travelled well to challenge off the final bend. Following a good buckle up the straight, she pulled clear late to beat favourite Good Tradition.
“It’s a great day today, and that’s what’s racing is all about,” said Martin. “These are the days that make up for all the hard ones. We have great owners around us now, a better class of horse and, most importantly, good staff and a good back-up team.”
Jack Kennedy may be a more familiar sight aboard horses trained by Gordon Elliott, but the talented young rider teamed up with champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins to land the featured €100,000 Guinness Handicap Flat race aboard Clondaw Warrior.
Owned by the Act D Wagg Syndicate, which includes the partners of Ruby Walsh and David Casey, the well-backed 4-1 chance travelled strongly in mid-division in the early stages, and made smooth progress to challenge approaching the turn for home.
In front in the straight, and soon clear, the Ascot Stakes winner stayed on well to score a shade cosily, from favourite Golden Spear.
“It’s brilliant,” said the winning rider. “I was just touched off a few times in the past couple of days, so it’s great to get one on the board.”
The Listowel native has been an instant success, having recently made the step up from the pony-racing circuit, and, remarkably, is now just three winners away from losing his 7lb claim.
“I couldn’t have got off to a better start, and everyone that’s given me rides and winners have been very good to me,” he added.
The Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle on today’s card had been under consideration for the winner, but his trainer was adamant this was the right option, and it reaped rich reward, admitted David Casey. “He got a great ride from Jack Kennedy but, in fairness, it’s down to the trainer — he’s a gifted man. He picked the race.”
There was an upset in the Guinness 17:59 maiden as Whiskey Sour, trained by Eddie Lynam, battled bravely to get the better of odds-on favourite Palmetto Dunes.
The two had it between them off the turn for home and the market leader looked to be getting the better of the argument for much of the straight.
However, Whiskey Sour responded generously to Colm O’Donoghue’s urgings to forge ahead late for a narrow win.
While it could never make up for Rule The World’s misfortune in the Galway Plate, trainer Mouse Morris gained a modicum of compensation when Rogue Angel took the Guinness Galway Blazers Handicap Chase.
David Mullins was in the saddle and gave further evidence of his effectiveness with another positive ride.
The 16-1 chance was sent to the front shortly after halfway, but there were numerous dangers as they turned for home. Urano travelled stylishly, looking like the winner, but Mullins drove his mount out to beat the staying-on Perfect Promise by a couple of lengths, with Urano in third.
“There’s nothing like winning a Plate but we’ll take this one,” said Morris.
Trainer David Wachman recorded his third winner of the week, when Nova scored at the third time of asking, in the Guinness Maiden, over a mile and a half.
Although the ease in the ground was not certain to suit the colt, Billy Lee rode a confident race from the front. The two looked comfortable throughout and, after quickening off the home turn, had plenty in hand to deny Pictogram.
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