Russell goes with the Flos
Henry De Bromhead snared the Galway Plate for the second time as the six-year-old Balko Des Flos was a commanding winner under Davy Russell.
The 6/1 chance, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, always looked like winning the race from the outset, and Russell hailed "the marvellous trainer" afterwards, while De Bromhead was quick to note Eddie O'Leary's role in picking the race.
Gigginstown's racing manager had ensured that this was the plan since the horse ran at the Punchestown Festival, and he was following the path of Shanahan's Turn, which ran in the same race at Punchestown en route to 2015 Plate glory for De Bromhead.
"Speaking to (jockey) Davy Roche beforehand, he gave me lots of confidence and he was ready for today," Russell said.
"I got to the front early enough, but the last thing I asked Davy going out was whether he'd stay and he said 'absolutely, stamina is not an issue', so I was happy enough to let him go.
"I've never won this race, so it's nice to do it."
Balko Des Flos denied Willie Mullins a third-successive big-race winner as Shaneshill, 3/1 favourite from 12/1 on Tuesday, finished a fine second. This was Gigginstown's third winner in the race in four years - quite the vindication for the operation's investment in embryonic staying chasers.
"There's a lovely ring off that," said Eddie O'Leary when that stat was put to him afterwards.
Balko Des Flos was handy throughout in a fairly uneventful Plate, though two female riders - Rachael Blackmore and Lisa O'Neill - both suffered spills off their mounts.
A bad mistake at the second-last was costly for Shaneshill, which finished ahead of the other placed runners, Slow Motion and A Toi Phil.
This was a tough result for Bryan Cooper, which would have had the choice of the Gigginstown runners up until he lost the number one job on Friday.
There was a touching moment just after the horses crossed the wire, as Ruby Walsh put his hand around Cooper and whispered him words of encouragement.
It was Russell's first win in the Plate at the tender age of 38 and a relief after he met all sorts of trouble on the gambled-on Rosie Alice in the mares' handicap hurdle.
It was another excellent day for Willie Mullins, who provided the Mee family with a double, as Minella Beau won the opening race and Exchange Rate took the amateur riders' maiden under Irish Independent columnist, his son Patrick.
Mullins, who confirmed that Tuesday’s big-race winner Riven Light would likely not go hurdling again, hailed the gutsy performance of 7/2 chance Exchange Rate, which was less popular in the betting than his first winner, well-backed 5/4 favourite Minella Beau.
Patrick Mullins’ victory on Exchange Rate was his second of the week and he said: “It was getting a bit tight but when he got a gap he took it and was very brave. He’s won in Galway now for the Mees and that’s their Cheltenham.”
It would not be Galway without wild celebrations after an ordinary handicap and Miss Eyecatcher’s win in the mares’ event at 14/1 realised a dream for the victorious Connery Family Syndicate. The race was more of a nightmare for Russell, who met traffic on unlucky runner-up, the heavily backed Rosie Alice. The other handicap hurdle went to another 14/1 shot, Davids Charm.
Danny Sheehy, strikingly similar in looks to his father ‘Dusty’, showcased his talents in the three-year-olds’ handicap by steering 7/1 Jet Streaming to a late decision. Friend and rival, Sean Davis, showed he too was a 7lb claimer to be reckoned with when Perfect Soldier just held on in the maiden.
Dermot Weld’s 2017 Festival form going into today is 3000845957P25, his odds-on Sansibar Jewel finishing down the field behind Perfect Soldier. Mullins is now on five winners.
The finale went to the Shark Hanlon-trained Magna Cartor at 20/1, well-ridden by Rory Cleary.
On a day of more rain than sunshine, the crowd was 17,322, smaller than both the Tuesday and Monday meets. Plate day, such a historic occasion, is now one of the least popular fixtures of the week.