River runs home for Geraghty
It was as though he had never been away, nor that faceless whispers had wondered how long he might remain at the top.
Yesterday’s Galway Hurdle, as he lifted the well-backed Tigris River home for Joseph O’Brien and JP McManus, was right out of the Barry Geraghty manual – as he showed all his big-race experience. He was calm, unruffled and granite-tough as the young horse found enough to get up close home before a crowd of over 30,000.
Geraghty has been crippled with injuries, only returning this week after a fall on Easter Monday, and his decision to nurse his way back into combat – forgoing a chance to take part in yesterday’s opener – was vindicated.
This was very much his victory, and it is startling to note that it was his first in what is incredibly the richest hurdle race in Europe.
“There’s no stronger man in the saddle than Barry,” commented O’Brien, who was winning the Hurdle 20 years after his father Aidan took it for the first time with Toast The Spruce.
Those who say second place is the loneliest of all could attest to the emotions of Joe Murphy, who trains the odd jumper including Swamp Fox, which was second in Monday’s feature to a major power (Willie Mullins) and second again here.
He was torn between the big screen and the parade ring in the final furlong, in that horrible waiting room of doubt. It was not to be.
“I said to Barry (Browne, rider of Swamp Fox) pulling up that you’ll have 20 years to win one of these as that’s how long I’ve been trying,” Geraghty recalled, underlining the decency that defines him and makes him one of the most likeable figures in the sport.
McManus, a figure who divides the hardcore followers of racing, whispered to O’Brien as the hacks finally got a line or two in a post-race monsoon: “Don’t tell them everything!”
There is never any fear of the publicity-shy McManus being sucked into that trap.
His loyalty to Geraghty has meant a great deal to the rider, and the legendary gambler added: “Joseph deserves this success, he’s very dedicated.”
Asked how he would celebrate, the trainer said: “I’m going home. Racing is all about tomorrow.”
And that was it.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” McManus added.
It was a double for McManus and O'Brien, the latter's cousin JJ Slevin steering Tesseract home in the opener, while Willie Mullins took the novice chase with the heavily backed Rathvinden.
Mullins admitted he had helped dissuade Ruby Walsh from abandoning also-ran Townshend, which went off 7/2 joint-favourite with his well-backed stablemate, steered by Paul Townend.
"We now know that (the racecourse) will give us nice ground and have a nice new watering system. It's the place to be in the summer," he said after his sixth winner of the week.
"The Jumps prize-money is very good here and, when you look at the standard of any of the novice races here this week, it is as good as it'll be all winter and it's a tough place to win."
The novice hurdle was a smart one. Paddy Kennedy, riding his second winner of the week, denied Mullins' Robin Des Foret with 12/1 Oakly.
"He won't be sold now: we're going to have fun," said trainer Paul Fahey.
His brother, Peter, took the finale with the heavily supported Dayna Moss (7/4), while Sligo trainer Mark McNiff was thankful for the reserve system as sub runner Andratx snared the mile-and-a-half handicap.
The Listed event for fillies saw Aidan O'Brien have his first Galway winner this week, his son Donnacha steering Music Box (4/1 joint-favourite) home on a day of days for the clan.
Galway affords owners who cannot countenance arriving by chopper a lucky dip for the spotlight on the national stage and the Brown family, which forms the Nap Racing Syndicate, revelled in the success of Harry Rogers' Remarkable Lady (16/1) in the extended mile handicap.