'Fox' swamps his rivals in style
Delight for Murphy and Browne as trainer's faith rewarded
Joe Murphy had never even spoken to Barry Browne until last Sunday night, but they combined to devastating effect yesterday to plunder a famous triumph with Swamp Fox in the €80,000 feature on day one of the Galway Festival.
In delivering with hot favourites Muthaza and Right Honourable, Willie Mullins and Dermot Weld fulfilled their duties for the swathes of punters who crammed Ballybrit for the opening exchanges of the seven-day gala.
Joseph O'Brien also did his bit by securing a debut win at the festival in his new guise as a trainer when the heavily-backed 2/1 favourite Motherland defied a welter burden to trounce its rivals by 17 lengths in the 12-furlong handicap under his brother Donnacha.
However, the showpiece Connacht Hotel-sponsored amateur riders' event proved harder to fathom.
The Galway faithful conspired to send Weld's Time To Inspire off favourite, but he never figured behind Swamp Fox.
Narrowly denied at the meeting in 2015, Murphy's four-year-old broke its duck on the Flat with an emphatic Ballinrobe victory a week earlier. He has really got the hang of the job now.
Swamp Fox swept to the front turning in for Browne here en route to a decisive two-and-a-quarter-length success from last year's third, Ted Veale.
"He has done what I always believed he could do," said Fethard, Co Tipperary-based Murphy, long one of the most respected small-scale operators around, who won tonight's mile highlight in 2010 with Ask Jack.
"I was very disappointed when he was beaten here last year and I've had this race in mind for him ever since.
"He is a horse with a big future and could even come back for a Galway Hurdle some day. This place always has been lucky for me. It's a great race to win and I've never even had a runner in it before."
Of Browne, a 25-year-old from Co Kildare who has ridden just a handful of winners, Murphy said: "I don't know much about him.
"John Barry does all the work on the horse but he couldn't do the weight and it's not easy to get a good amateur to do 10st.
"The agent Gary Cribbin recommended Barry and he did a good job."
A delighted Browne, who weighed in a pound overweight, said: "It's unbelievable. I had to lose six pounds to do the weight but it was well worthwhile. I can't thank Gary enough."
Shake The Bucket returned similarly unfenced by the market at 14/1, but he was also a popular winner of the handicap hurdle.
The nine-year-old stalwart is something of a family pet to the Maddens, with Sarah Ann his owner-breeder, her brother Niall 'Slippers' his jockey and their father Niall 'Boots' his trainer.
"He will probably go back to Dundalk next, or he could go back chasing as well!" quipped the beaming patriarch of his 11-time winner.
Madden's daughter added: "It's absolutely brilliant. To have a winner in Galway is something special. He has won a point-to-point, he has won over hurdles, he has won over fences and he has won on the flat - Dad would sooner have him over any of us!"
For the 24th time, Weld took the card's two-year-olds' maiden. Classic heroes Go And Go and Grey Swallow were among the previous 23, and Right Honourable can now be added to the list after fending off market rival Courage Under Fire in determined fashion for Pat Smullen.
"He is a tough, genuine horse, just like his sire Famous Name," said Weld of the 5/4 favourite, which his late mother Gita bred. "He stands for €3,000 at the National Stud and is the best value sire in the country."
As had been the case the previous two years, Willie Mullins got off to a flyer by taking the opening novices' hurdle with Muthaza.
Ruby Walsh's mount was sent off the 1/6 favourite and won accordingly, with the mares' novice hurdle at Cheltenham next March the grand plan for her.
Johnny Feane, one of the rising stars of the training ranks, saddled his first winner at the meeting when Gary Halpin drove Spruce Meadows to victory in the seven-furlong handicap.
Backed from 13/2 into a 5/1 SP, the Ann Cassidy-owned three-year-old was winning for a third time since being acquired by connections in the autumn.
"He was a bit unlucky when he was beaten at Naas the last day, so I put him away for this to give the owners a day out here," Curragh-based Feane said of Spruce Meadows.
After Motherland's barnstorming rout, Joseph O'Brien indicated that the large, white-faced chestnut could be aimed at a York handicap, with a step up in class or hurdling then on the agenda, depending on how much further he progresses.
Right Honourable's owner Dr Ronan Lambe doubled up when Jim Culloty and Finny Maguire combined to take the bumper with Electric Concorde at odds of 8/1.
Attendance on the night fell year-on-year by 363 to 18,851, while the bookmakers' take plummeted 12pc to €1,060,787.
The Tote aggregate was up from €782,346 to €862,306.