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Liam McKenna rides 10-year-old Tudor City to glory in Galway Hurdle


Liam McKenna holds aloft the trophy after winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap on Tudor City. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Liam McKenna holds aloft the trophy after winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap on Tudor City. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Liam McKenna holds aloft the trophy after winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap on Tudor City. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

TUDOR CITY wrote his way into Ballybrit folklore when landing a second Guinness Galway Hurdle as Liam McKenna made his first ride of the season an unforgettable one when guiding the 22/1 chance to glory for handicap king Tony Martin.

The jockey's first cousin Conor was centre stage last year when starring for Tyrone in their All-Ireland SFC triumph, but ladies day belonged to the 7lb claimer as he enjoyed a change of luck in front of 23,136 spectators having only recently returned from injury.

McKenna had plates and screws inserted in his collarbone after suffering nine fractures when falling in this year's Irish National, but he showed no sign of rust with Martin branding his patient steer as an "incredible ride that Ruby Walsh would be proud of".

"I just don't want to wake up now!" the 27-year-old beamed. “It’s surreal. You’ve only ever seen it, I’ve never been in it. So to be in it makes everything worthwhile. I wouldn't be someone that's in demand, but to ride a Galway Hurdle winner is unbelievable.

"The cousin is a very good footballer so it was great to have him here. This time last year, next month, he was lifting the Sam Maguire and now I'm lifting the Galway Hurdle. It’s amazing, this hasn’t sunk in yet."

McKenna praised his girlfriend Louise – as well as her four children Ciarán, Andrew, Michael and Thomas – "for putting up with me for three months" after Tudor City joined a rare breed having also succeeded in this race in 2019.

Only Point d'Atout – which prevailed in 1942 before doing the business again as an 11-year-old in '47 – has regained the Galway Hurdle as Meath trainer Martin produced a training performance for the ages to land his fourth success in the €270,000 feature.

“"You could see a while ago that he was coming to himself and lucky enough he delivered," Martin said. “Days like this are what it’s all about. It would be lovely to have a few nice, good horses, and fortunately enough we might get a few back again.

"We were short on quality horses for the last few years, and things weren’t going great, but hopefully they’re beginning to pick up a bit and it’s onwards and upwards."

The 10-year-old's triumph was also a third Galway Hurdle for colourful owner John Breslin while there was great symmetry between that success and victory for Surrounding (10/1) in the Arthur Guinness Corrib Fillies Stakes.

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Mick Halford's nine-year-old hung on by a neck under Ronan Whelan having also taken the Listed prize three years ago and it was a poignant success after her owner Peter Newell passed away in the early hours of the morning.

“Her owner unfortunately passed away during the night and I'd say she got a bit of help from somewhere," Halford said. "I hope it helps lift the spirits of the Newell family a bit because Peter was a great supporter of ours and she's the best animal they bred."

Peter Fahey was one of the other big winners when landing a 37.5/1 double spearheaded by Grade Three success for Visionarian (9/2) in the Guinness Open Gate Brewery Novice Chase as the seven-year-old came home best under Denis O'Regan.

Galway-based owner Basil Holian hadn't secured a Festival winner until that success and he amazingly had another within 40 minutes as Declan McDonogh wasn't for passing aboard Soaring Monarch (6/1) in the Rockshore Handicap.

The day started and finished in familiar fashion with a winner for Willie Mullins as Rambranlt'jac (9/1) sprung a surprise in the Guinness Beginners Chase to fend off Alfa Mix (7/2) by half a length under Brian Hayes.

It was a tough day for punters but favourite backers had something to smile about in the closing bumper when Mullins and son Patrick combined with What Path (5/2) getting off the mark at the fourth time of asking.

Team Mullins were turned over in the Guinness Novice Hurdle, though, as Hors Piste (8/11 favourite) was gunned down late on by Salvador Ziggy (15/2) as Davy Russell gave a vintage display in the saddle aboard Gordon Elliott's improving six-year-old.

Jake Coen is at the other end of the spectrum to Russell as the emerging Tipperary rider continues to earn his stripes in the saddle and he was seen to good effect as the Tom Mullins-trained Star Image (40/1) edged a dramatic photo finish to score by a nose in the Guinness 0.0% Handicap.

This article was amended on 2 August, 2022. The original version of the article referred to the children of Liam McKenna’s girlfriend Louise as his children. Having been contacted by their father, Mr Gavin Dunne, the article has now been amended to refer to her children.

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