Martin's Jack too quick for heir Weld's Grecian Tiger
Martin's shrewd judgment reaps reward as he retains opening-day showpiece
Tony Martin enhanced his status as Dermot Weld's heir apparent at Galway as he and Steven Clements combined with the well-backed favourite Quick Jack to readily emulate their 2013 triumph in last night's Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders' showpiece.
After Edeymi got up under Clements in a thrilling finish to the €70,000 handicap 12 months ago, Martin threatened to steal Weld's thunder with an eight-winner haul.
On the Saturday, Quick Jack first showed his potential when second in a handicap on his first start on the level for Martin.
He hadn't been out of the frame in seven further starts across both codes since and was sent off at prohibitive odds of 7/4 in the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
Quick Jack emerged with plenty of credit there with third. Then Martin's unerring instincts kicked in, prompting him to make the bold decision to keep his powder dry until summer rolled around.
It was characteristically shrewd judgment that reaped a rich dividend on day one of the festival.
Clements brought Quick Jack through to take over from Weld's Grecian Tiger as they swung for home before stretching clear to score by three lengths with the minimum of fuss at odds of 4/1.
It was a brilliantly straightforward climax to an inspirational piece of foresight and training after a 184-day lay-off.
"After Leopardstown we said we'd put him away for Galway, so fair play to John for having the patience," Martin said of the horse's owner John Breslin, who was responsible for 50pc of his 2013 tally here.
"That was magic. This horse just keeps improving and this was always the plan, as he doesn't have a high enough rating to get into the Galway Hurdle. There is a Flat race for him here on Friday so we'll just see how he is Thursday morning."
Martin, who has recently put his Co Meath yard on the market, first won the prestigious two-mile race when steering Coolcullen to victory for Jim Bolger in 1987.
Clements is a native of Scarva in Co Down, and the composed 28-year-old continues to show why he is such tremendous value for his five-pound claim since switching back from the paid ranks last year as he and Martin emulated Weld and Robbie McNamara's successive wins in 2008 and 2009.
"Deja vu!" the rider said. "Tony had plenty of confidence in the horse and I worked him earlier in the week and knew he was spot on. He's a classy horse."
Sixteen-year-old Finny Maguire enjoyed a memorable first spin at Ballybrit when driving Fire Fighter into third for his father Adrian, while Maxine O'Sullivan enjoyed little luck in running in fourth on Martin's Spacious Sky, having steered Redera into third for him last year.
Weld ensured he would again keep Martin honest when Timiyan (3/1) scooted five lengths clear in the seven-furlong handicap for Pat Smullen.
Brian Hayes showed why he has led the conditional riders' table since losing his five-pound claim with an authoritative steer on Henry de Bromhead's Beckwith Star, sporting the Herb Stanley colours made famous by Merry Gale.
"I'm delighted to get a winner for Herb here and for Brian, who was very good on him," de Bromhead said of the 12/1 shot.
Paul Townend was similarly strong in getting Willie Mullins' Mckinley (9/1 to 7/1) home in the novices' hurdle, and Mullins' fellow champion Aidan O'Brien then got in on the act when Jamaica justified strong support with an easy juvenile maiden win.
Joseph O'Brien never had a moment's worry as he steered the 4/9 favourite to a cosy win, with next month's Futurity Stakes at the Curragh now on the agenda.
Mullins' brother Tom and his son David plundered the bumper with Princely Conn (7/1), condemning Weld to the runner-up berth for a third time on a frustrating night for the Roswell House wizard.
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