Last weeks Galway festival will be remembered mainly for the inclement weather and apart from Plate day on Thursday the attendance and betting figures showed a decline on last year.
As is usual for him Dermot Weld topped the trainers table and one of his winners Rock Critic which simply destroyed the opposition when making his hurdling debut on Saturday could well turn out to be a Supreme Novices’ contender at Cheltenham next March.
The master of Rosewell House rattled off a three timer at Mondays opening session that included the featured amateur handicap with Midnight Music. Conditions were perfect for racing before the monsoon weather moved in later on and eighteen year old Jane Mangan gave a master class display when guiding Midnight Music to a facile success. Daughter of Grand National winning trainer Jimmy and brother of Pat who is attached to the Edward O’Grady yard Jane became the first lady rider to land this coveted prize.
Settling her mount in mid division she was in no hurry to take on the leaders but once she met the rising ground before the straight she picked up well and went right away in the final furlong to win unchallenged by four and a half lengths from Cry For The Moon with the favourite Clarach two lengths further back in third place.
In his post race remarks Weld revealed that his charge which was tackling two mile for the first time is on the handy side and for this reason plus the fact that he was worried about her getting the trip he decided to use a claiming jockey. Jane carried out her instructions to the letter to record her eight success on the racecourse and on this evidence she is right up there with the best lady riders in the land. She was only just out of the pram when Stroll Home landed the Galway Plate for her father back in 1997.
Train Of Thought and Thunder Mountain were the other Weld winners on the evening while Cloughjordan based Denis Hogan kept up his good strike rate when saddling Kalellshan to capture the two mile 81-123 handicap hurdle to record a first success at the festival. Given a cracking ride by 7lb claimer Mark Enright the Sadlers Hall gelding set off in front and Enright kept enough up his sleeve to see of the challenge of Maxim Gorky by five lengths with the Charlie Swan runner Tribes And Banners filling third position threeparts of a length further in areers.
Tom Mullins kept up a great family tradition by landing Wednesdays Galway Plate courtesy of Bob Lingo who was crediting his owner JP McManus with his fifth victory in the race. Emulating his siblings Willie and Tony as well as his late father Paddy by training the winner of the race Mullins was continuing his fine run of successes at big meetings such as Cheltenham, Fairyhouse and Punchestown.
Having limbered up with a flat outing at Killarney the son of Bob’s Return raced in the slipstream of the leaders before closing right up heading into the dip. Rider Mark Walsh put the gun to his head with a furlong to race and he responded well to go away and land the spoils by five lengths from Casey Top with Blackstairmountain twelve lengths away in third place.
Irish Grand National runner-up Out Now from the Edward O’Grady stable was a well backed favourite, a mistake around the halfway point did not help his cause and he dropped away after the third last. the trainer had better luck on Thursday when Tugboat battled well to take the valuable two mile and four novice hurdle at the expense of the favourite Letherbelucky. A Clonmel maiden hurdle winner at the end of May the Galileo gelding was the only four year old in the field. He raced ahead of mid division before taking over at the second last flight and running on strongly to hit the wire two and a quarter lengths to the good. This was a likeable performance by the winner which has a preference for better ground and it will come as no surprise if he among the better staying novices later in the season.
Rarely have I seen scenes in the winners enclosure like those accorded to Rebel Fitz which was a narrow winner of the Galway Hurdle on Thursday. The richest national hunt race in the country this years renewal had had everything, a high class filed that went a good gallop with victory going to a small but successful yard near Kanturk run by Michael Winters. Ever since he made a winning debut at Listowel almost two years ago the French Bred has been a talking horse and his victory in the Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary on his most recent outing showed that he had now arrived on the big stage. Given plenty of time to find his feet by rider Davy Russell Rebel Fitz came with a tremendous rattle going to the final flight and looked like winning comfortable until jockey Russell took his eye off the ball by watching the big screen and failed to see Cause Of Causes finishing like an express train.
As Russell was waving his whip in celebration the latter was closing with every stride and they flashed passed the post almost in unison. To his great relieve Russell’s mount had prevailed by a head and the rider admitted that he needed a kick up the rear end for what could have been an expensive error. Almost half the population of the Co Cork town seemed to have been in attendance to greet Rebel Fitz, Winters was carried shoulder high back to the winners circle and Boherlahan based Russell revealed his pleasure at landing such a prestigious race for the trainer who was one of the first to give him a ride during his amateur days.
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