Ruby delivers glory for 'Waggs' on Ladies Day
Walsh gets 'Warrior' home for first Galway Hurdle triumph
An animated Ruby Walsh returned to scenes of pandemonium in the parade ring after producing the sort of masterclass with which he is synonymous to plunder his first Guinness Galway Hurdle and in the process land a gamble on Clondaw Warrior.
There aren't many marquee jump races that the finest rider of this - or possibly any - generation hasn't won.
Yesterday's €300,000 handicap, the most valuable jumps race in the land, happened to be one of them, but what a way to end the hoodoo.
Appropriately enough, given that it was Ladies' Day at Ballybrit, Clondaw Warrior is owned by the Act D Wagg syndicate, which comprises none other than Walsh's wife and their closest friends. The syndicate name is a jumbled acronym for the initials of Gillian Walsh, Aisling Casey, Tamso Doyle and Aisling Gannon, whose husband Michael, or 'Chips' as he is known, sourced the horse out of John 'Shark' Hanlon's yard.
Casey is married to David Casey, one of Walsh's oldest confidants and the man who rode Mystical City to victory in 1996, the only previous time that the champion trainer had won the feature.
Doyle and her husband David Cox are also among Walsh's inner circle, so Walsh's exultant celebrations were rooted in bonhomie.
Of course, the fact that his household's winning percentage of the €177,000 prize is considerably healthier than if he were just doing the steering might also have occurred to him.
"It's great to win it," Walsh beamed. "We all go back a long way - Gillian led me up here on Welsh Grit to win the handicap hurdle on the Saturday in 1997 - she was working in Willie's for the summer at the time. I have worked with David (Casey) since I started in Willie's.
"It is special. When Chips bought him for the girls to go to Royal Ascot, you have a vested interest. They own quarters of him and for him to do what he has, and then come here and win a pot as big as this, it is amazing stuff. It is wonderful."
Since landing a major touch in a Tramore Flat handicap on his bow for the stable in 2014, Clondaw Warrior has been a revelation. This was his third year in a row winning at Galway after two previous Flat victories.
He was victorious in the 2014 November Handicap, won the Ascot Stakes last year and another valuable hurdle at Fairyhouse in the spring, not to mention a raft of other placings.
Mullins has certainly worked the oracle with Clondaw Warrior, and, although his cost is unknown, it's safe to say that the circa €450,000 that he has won in the meantime dwarfs it.
Incidentally, he missed the cut for this race last year, but he gives his all every time he runs.
Things didn't happen for Clondaw Warrior early on here, but he rallied bravely for Walsh under 11st 5lb to collar the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Princely Conn with 50 yards to go, before then holding off the surge of Hidden Cyclone. To add insult to injury, the runner-up is trained by Hanlon.
"This has been the plan since we missed the cut here last year," an energised Walsh added. "He won at Fairyhouse and got the penalty required. He probably got too much of a penalty, but he has been primed for the day. Virginnie Bascop and Casey do all the work on him.
"He had such good form here, winning twice on the Flat, that we thought that maybe his track form would help him having to carry the weight.
"He didn't jump that well. He kicked the first out of the ground and then he was about 10 places further back than he wanted to be, but you can only ride the race where you are.
"I got a great run down the hill and got out when I needed to get out - even a fraction early.
"But he rallied really well to win. Rebel Fitz and Overturn were the only other two horses in the last 10 years to shoulder over 11st in the race. He has earned enough to go to Chicago now!"
An ambitious tilt at the American St Leger could be on the cards, although Mullins has York in mind as well.
"That was another Houdini job by Ruby, same as on Penhill here the other day," he smiled.
"When I saw him with four behind passing the winning post I thought it would take more than a miracle to get out of that position. He waited and waited, and he was brilliant from the last.
"Clondaw Warrior is too high for the Ebor so he could go for the Lonsdale Cup. We also have to possibility of the American St Leger in Chicago. We have the money to go now!
"I'd imagine he'd have to improve another seven pounds to think about the Melbourne Cup - that might be a bit too far. If he did I'd imagine that would be a real dream; I don't think so, but we'll see. They have had some fun with this horse - he is a dream horse."
Modem ran a blinder in fourth, while Pyromaniac failed to live up expectations in seventh.
Backed from 7/1 into 9/2 favouritism, Clondaw Warrior was completing a short-priced double for the all-conquering firm, after Walsh stepped in for Bryan Cooper to steer Gigginstown's Bel Sas to victory in the novices' hurdle.
Cooper, who had already endured the misfortune of eschewing the winning Galway Plate mount on Lord Scoundrel, suffered a nasty fall between the final two fences in the novices' chase. He was found last night to have a partially collapsed lung.
"At the moment he has a partially collapsed lung and we are awaiting a scan report," confirmed the Turf Club's Dr Adrian McGoldrick.
"If that is the extent of his injury, he'll be a very lucky fellow."
Cooper's misfortune added to the week's attritional toll, with Robbie Power (fractured jawbone and eye-socket fractures), Connor King (stable fracture to his T8 vertebrae) and Conor Maxwell (broken nose) already in the wars.
Tom Mullins built on Princely Conn's fine turn when Tara Dylan and Gary Carroll combined to take the 12-furlong handicap.
"She was six pounds well in today as she got 11lbs for winning at Leopardstown (a week earlier), so that swayed me to come here," Mullins explained.
"She overcame a bad draw and Gary was brilliant on her. He's a jockey that has really come of age."
Earlier, Andy Slattery turned a good week into a great one when Planchart (right) dug deep to overhaul the favourite Rayisa in the Listed Corrib Stakes.
The Killenaule, Co Tipperary handler had already plundered Tuesday's valuable feature event with Creggs Pipes, and he combined with Declan McDonogh again here to add this €35,400 win prize to his haul.
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"Any day you come here and just get a winner is a good day, so to come away with a Listed race and a premier handicap is something special," Slattery said after welcoming back Planchart, which was backed from 7/2 into 10/3.
"Creggs Pipes is going for the Matron Stakes and this filly is in it, too. I could run them both - I don't think Aidan O'Brien will need to run any pacemakers that day!"
There was a turn-up in the beginners' chase, with Mouse Morris's 66/1 maiden Scamall Dubh emerging on top for Mark Enright to deny the favourite Marinero in a thrilling four-way finish.
In the novices' chase, Xsquared (4/1) continued its sensational season with a fifth win on the spin since June. Peter Fahey only received the Adders Partnership's eight-year-old in late spring, yet he has now won three chases and two Flat races with it.
"I can't believe it really," he admitted after Kevin Sexton bright Xsquared with a powerful late run to score by six lengths from Hurricane Ben. "What he has done is unreal. This is what the summer is all about - winning here."
The mile handicap got under way in farcical circumstances, with a false start and stalls malfunction leading to the race being started with an old-fashioned National Hunt-style drop of a flag.
They were then let go when Elusive In Paris was facing in the opposite direction, being held by a stalls handler.
If you head for Dingle's pony racing showpiece next weekend, you won't see such a shambles, yet a stewards' report concluded somewhat inexplicably: "The stewards were satisfied that a fair start had been effected by flag start."
The race was eventually won by John Larkin's Total Demolition, which was running for a second day in a row, under a determined drive from Conor Hoban. A 10/1 shot, Total Demolition had been nibbled at from 12/1.
"I laughed when they broke, as he's like an old woman coming out of stalls," Co Louth-based Larkin joked. "He was drawn 18 of 18 (on Wednesday) and was very slowly away so his race was over before it even started.
"He has won three now this year, which is great. He could run again here on Saturday."
Attendance on the busiest day of the week fell 7pc on 2015 to 32,663, while the bookmakers' take plunged 15pc to €1,627,663. The Tote aggregate was up from €1.1m to €1.4m.