| 8.2°C Dublin

Perseverance pays off for Mark Walsh as Sire Du Berlais lands famous Festival treble


Mark Walsh celebrates on Sire Du Berlais after winning the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Mark Walsh celebrates on Sire Du Berlais after winning the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Mark Walsh celebrates on Sire Du Berlais after winning the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Mark Walsh didn’t know whether he would make the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks ago due to injury but his hard work was rewarded when steering Sire Du Berlais to a shock 33/1 success in the Stayers’ Hurdle yesterday.

The 36-year-old was touch-and-go to make the Cotswolds after a shuddering fall at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival – not long after riding a winner – but he persevered for five weeks with a back injury before returning at Naas on the eve of the Festival.

That made his eighth Festival winner all the sweeter as he paid tribute to the many helpers who got him there in one piece.

“That’s the ups and downs of racing, you’re on top of the world one minute and then you’re on the ground getting kicked around the place. I’m lucky enough I made it back with a lot of help from a lot of people,” the Kildare rider said.

“The doctors in Ireland, Adrian McGoldrick and Jennifer Pugh, helped me out. My physio at home, John Butler, they all pieced me back together and got me here so I’m very thankful to them.”

Walsh had a very willing partner with Sire Du Berlais notching his third Festival victory after Gordon Elliott’s charge swooped late on before holding off stablemate Teahupoo (9/4 favourite).

“He is brilliant and he loves this place. He never knows when he is beaten. A good gallop suited and he travelled great for him as usually he can be on and off the bridle but he travelled great and jumped great,” Walsh said.

“He was the same when he ran at Aintree last season as he didn’t have a great run here before winning the Grade One but Gordon had him spot on today so all credit to him. He loves it around here and he is a joy to ride so it is brilliant to win on him.

“It wasn’t until I went by the horse in front of me up the hill that I thought I had it won but he has really stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line. I don’t know what it is about here but he always seems to run a good race around here.”

It could have been a different story for Walsh, retained rider for JP McManus and providing the Limerick owner with a 71st Festival winner, had Elliott’s original plan for the 11-year-old come to fruition.

Sire Du Berlais was having his sixth straight run at the Festival having landed back-to-back renewals of the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2019-20’) and that had been the plan again this time around.

“We couldn’t get him qualified for the Pertemps Final, but anyway, it worked out well. It didn’t work out for us, with ground one day, and his handicap, he got a good mark off the handicapper, so we said we’d come here,” Elliott said.

“To be honest, he doesn’t do anything too exciting – he minds himself, which is why he is still going at his age. I didn’t even think about winning this with him – I thought I was going to win it with the other horse (Teahupoo)!”

It was a welcome winner for the Meath trainer having earlier watched Mighty Potter (4/6 favourite) come home third in the opening Turners Novices’ Chase under Davy Russell.

Elliott was also touched off in the Pertemps Final when Salvador Ziggy (10/1) found one too good in the shape of the Tony Martin-trained Good Time Jonny (9/1) but he got his head in front in the day three showpiece to land his third winner of the week.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Most Watched