Synchronised delivers lifelong dream for JP
IT'S for days like this in the Cotswolds that JP McManus ploughs fortunes into horses.
More than 30 years since the Jack Of Trumps Gold Cup dream came undone during routine early morning exercise, yesterday the Limerick native finally fulfilled his lifetime ambition of winning jump racing's showpiece event when AP McCoy drove Synchronised to a hugely popular victory.
It was the perennial champion jockey's second triumph in the showpiece Grade One following his front-running coup on Mr Mulligan in 1997, and a glorious first victory for Jonjo O'Neill as a trainer.
The Castletownroche-born handler had also won the Gold Cup twice as a jockey, including on Dawn Run on that famous afternoon in 1986, so McManus was the odd one out in the partnership.
First Gold and L'Ami, a flashier pair of animals, had come up well short for him in recent times, but Synchronised, which he and wife Noreen bred at their Martinstown home, dug deep here after struggling to go the early pace.
Successful in the Welsh National last term, McManus's new pride and joy is already nine years of age, and was a surprise winner of the Lexus Chase at Christmas. Truth be told, in denying The Giant Bolster and a below-par Long Run, he was prevailing in a less-than-vintage Gold Cup, and the ever humble McManus conceded as much.
"It was lovely to win," he said with a glint in his eye, before adding of his well-supported 8/1 winner: "He's no Kauto Star, but we've done it our way. It gives everybody a great lift, and I just feel very, very proud."
The triumph was to prove the middle leg of a stunning 3,969/1 treble for McManus. Just over an hour earlier, McCoy had been equally strong in driving Alderwood home in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle, the rider's first result of the week.
At that stage of the day, Alderwood was the third McManus horse to have won at the Festival, and it was a fourth victory for Irish-based horses. Each of the quartet were trained by a Mullins, with Tom adding to his brother Willie's previous three in this.
"That's my first winner here and I hope it's not my last," the Doninga handler beamed after watching his 20/1 shot cling on from Edgardo Sol, with fellow raiders Sailors Warn and Plan A coming in third and fourth.
"Willie and my other brother Tony have both had winners here, as has my first cousin Seamus, so I was beginning to feel a little left out!"
Paul Carberry seemed to have all the luck when he produced Bellvano (20/1) with a daringly late thrust to complete the McManus hat-trick in the Grand Annual Chase. Barry Geraghty sent Bellvano's stablemate Tanks For That on after straightening for home, but the audacious Carberry waited until well after the last fence to make a move.
With McManus's green, white and gold silks ubiquitous, Irish luck turned. Straight after Synchronised's Gold Cup triumph, Colman Sweeney was Carberry-esque on his father Rodger's recent Leopardstown winner Salsify in the Foxhunters' Chase.
Sweeney oozed cool, patiently making up his ground to swoop on the run to the last fence to deny Chapoturgeon and Oscar Delta. The Castlelyons point-to-point specialist won the race on Sleeping Night in 2005 and only recently returned to the saddle after a sabbatical that saw his weight peak at 13st 10lb last November.
"I spent 18 months out of the saddle. During that time, I got married, did a degree course in computers and put on a bit of weight, but in November my wife Niamh and my parents encouraged me to get fit and ride Salsify this season," said Sweeney.
In the Triumph Hurdle, Dermot Weld had the runner-up for the second year in a row after Hisaabaat matched Unaccompanied's 2011 feat to chase home the 33/1 scorer Country- wide Flame. The winner was a first at the Festival for Tipperary native John Quinn and Galway-born rider Dougie Costello.