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Jordan Gainford is Plate hero at Galway Races

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Jordan Gainford is congratulated by his mother Avril after his success on the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained Hewick in the Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday. Photograph: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Jordan Gainford is congratulated by his mother Avril after his success on the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained Hewick in the Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday. Photograph: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Owner T.J. McDonald and Paddy Hanlon lead in Tote Galway Plate winner Hewick as trainer ‘Shark’ Hanlon congratulates jockey Jordan Gainford. Photograph: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

Owner T.J. McDonald and Paddy Hanlon lead in Tote Galway Plate winner Hewick as trainer ‘Shark’ Hanlon congratulates jockey Jordan Gainford. Photograph: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

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Jordan Gainford is congratulated by his mother Avril after his success on the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained Hewick in the Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday. Photograph: Patrick McCann/Racing Post.

wexfordpeople

THE ANNUAL Galway Races extravaganza had the stage to itself all last week and it produced its usual quota of shocks and big stories, with Jordan Gainford from Caim being the main Wexford star as he scored a famous victory in the week’s highlight, the €270,000 Galway Plate. Seán Flanagan also had a good week.

Galway has a habit of throwing up amazing stories every year, and Gainford was at the heart of one of the big ones as he steered the ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained Hewick (16/1) to a dramatic victory, having to fend off a loose horse up the closing stages of the run-in.

Luke Dempsey was challenging up the stand rail on the opposite side of the track on Joseph O’Brien’s Derasso (20/1 into 10s), and as the two flashed across the line Gainford had held on by half a length.

His ability and his coolness under intense pressure drew acclaim from all the critics, with former champion Barry Geraghty unstinting in his praise on TV.

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Gainford is a young man destined for the very top. This one was special for him as his parents were in attendance, despite the fact that his mother is nervous about watching him racing.

‘Shark’ Hanlon and connections were overjoyed in the parade ring as he fulfilled a lifetime ambition by winning the Plate, and he did it with a horse that he had first bought for €850!

It has proved an inspired choice as he and Jordan also combined to romp home with Hewick (16/1) in the £160,000 Bet365 Sandown Gold Cup (formerly the Whitbread) over three and a half miles last April.

The horse has winnings now in excess of €340,000 and there is surely more to come, with the Aintree Grand National a potential target for the seven-year-old.

He had warmed up for Galway with a three-mile run over hurdles in Ballinrobe under Rob James when pipped by a head. Hanlon had no problem dropping him back to two miles six for the Plate and he was proved right.

Jordan works now with Gordon Elliott and Hanlon thanked him for releasing him to ride Hewick in Galway although he had three runners in the race himself.

In fact, Seán Flanagan was very unlucky on one of those, Ash Tree Meadow (10/1), when badly hampered by a loose horse when challenging for the lead on the turn into the straight. He eventually finished fourth.

Gainford first got involved with horses as a young lad with his neighbour, trainer Shay Slevin, and then spent a couple of years with Colin Bowe where he was tutored by Barry O’Neill and Rob James as he rode twelve point-to-point winners, and four on the track as an amateur.

Jordan’s remarkable early success was highlighted by his initial Cheltenham Festival winner which came on the Emmet Mullins-trained The Shunter in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase in 2021, less than a month after he had turned professional.

He showed all the calm and coolness of an experienced veteran to handle big pressure at that early stage. He was not fazed by the big field of 21, or that his horse had been backed off the board into 9/4 favourtism from 11/2 in the morning, and not even by the fact that there was a £100,000 bonus riding on the result.

Jordan rode out his claim at Limerick on February 1, 2022 with his 60th winner in his first full year, a remarkable achievement.

He had begun the week in Galway on a winning note aboard Royal Eagle (18/1) for his boss, Gordon Elliott, in the opening novice hurdle on Monday. That same race was disappointing for trainer Paul Nolan as his Hms Seahorse was a raging hot 1/2 favourite under Seán O’Keeffe but could only finish third.

Seán Flanagan had his big day on Friday when he won the €80,000 Guinness novice hurdle on Sit Down Lucy (11/1) for the in-form Peter Fahey yard with a well-judged ride. He took it up at the last and kept on well to beat Teed Up (14/1) under Simon Torrens for Emmet Mullins by half a length.

Flanagan also put in a good front-running winning ride on Tuesday on Barry Connell’s Enniskerry (8/1), finishing well clear of favourite Midnight Run (1/1) under Bryan Cooper.

And he picked up €22,000 when a distant second on Happy Jacky (16/1) for Ray Hackett to Hallowed Star (8/1) for Rachael Blackmore and ‘Shark’ Hanlon in the €110,000 Boylesports handicap hurdle on Saturday.

Taghmon’s Seán O’Keeffe had to wait until the final day on Sunday to register his win for the week in the three-mile Kenny handicap hurdle on a Tony Martin-trained reserve that got in on just ten stone.

He made the 22lb weight advantage count as he got up on the line to pip Mark Walsh on the favourite, Perceval Leagallois (10/3), which was burdened with 11 stone 8.

The Taghmon man was second of 17 on a wet Saturday on board Hubrisko (3/1) for Willie Mullins in a maiden hurdle, behind Merlin Giant (10/3) for Donagh Meyler.

J.J. Slevin had a couple of good runs for Joseph O’Brien without getting to number one. He was second of 20 on Busselton (7/2f) in the €80,000 Galway Blazers handicap chase on Friday, behind Gabby’s Cross, a 22/1 shocker for Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead, and he was third in the €270,000 Galway Hurdle on Prairie Dancer (25/1), picking up over €24,000 after looking like a winner two fences out.


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