Thursday 24 January 2019

Win was sweet redemption in race I never even dreamed of winning

Minella Beau ridden by Ruby Walsh on the way to winning the Guinness Beginners Steeplechase on day four of the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse. Photo: PA
Minella Beau ridden by Ruby Walsh on the way to winning the Guinness Beginners Steeplechase on day four of the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse. Photo: PA

Patrick Mullins

Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day sang: "It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right, I hope you had the time of your life". That sums up my week in Galway so far.

On Monday, I got nabbed in the dying strides in the Connacht Hotel Handicap, a race I'm desperate to win.

On Wednesday, I won on Diamond Hill despite making mistake after mistake. And then yesterday happened.

I donned Rich Ricci's pink-and-green silks on Sharjah in the Galway Hurdle, a race that seemed so elusive to myself as an amateur who can only do top weights, that I had never even dreamed of winning it.

Myself and Sharjah had previous history from when we fell at the last in a Grade One at Leopardstown at Christmas. That was a gutting moment. Redemption was served yesterday.

I always imagined the Galway Hurdle to be akin to running with the bulls in Pamplona, absolute bedlam and with less room to manoeuvre than the smoking area in the famous Hole In The Wall bar at Galway. But the race went as serene as a stroll in Eyre Square.

We got a perfect start and a lovely position just behind the leaders down the rail.

Amazingly, I had lots of room and I was able to pull wide halfway down the back in order to get a clear run. Lesson learned from Wednesday's debacle!

I wasn't sure he would get up the hill on the rain-softened ground with top-weight, so I waited as long as I dared before launching into the lead at the last. We pinged the last this time and galloped onto the roll of honour that sits just inside the front door of the weigh-room at Galway.

David Porter and Maite Laubies, who look after Sharjah and ride him respectively, deserve huge credit for getting this horse to a peak for yesterday. Crossing the line was a huge adrenalin rush.

At home in Closutton, we have the paper framed from the day Mystical City won the Hurdle in 1996 for dad and David Casey in her luminous orange colours and I've grown up looking at it.

It will be sweet to put today's paper up beside it. It's a day I won't forget. I had the time of my life. And maybe next year I'll win that bloody race on the Monday!

John B Keane once said the Galway Races are a state of mind. Anyone who has stayed up for the weekend at the races knows it's far closer to a state of mindlessness.

As the Festival slides by halfway, a new and fresh crowd descend on Ballybrit to gamble, drink and waste the rest of their money.

It was a great thrill to see Minella Beau win yesterday for the Mees.

I recommended him to them, which lends itself to a different type of pressure than riding horses, but he has now won twice at the Galway Festival so he has justified his purchase.

Ruby Walsh gave him as fine a ride as you will see. The plan was to be quite handy but when the horse couldn't lie up with the fierce early pace, Ruby swapped plans, nursed him around and delivered him with Rolex-like timing.

We are well represented in the feature Guinness Handicap. Limini is swiftly sent back into action after her near-miss on Monday night.

It isn't ideal to run her back so quickly after such a long absence but she will be 11lb higher in future races so we roll the dice.

She travelled with enough ease on Monday to suggest the drop in trip will hold no fears for her, particularly on this slower ground. Whether or not she will 'bounce' is the obvious concern.

Gustavus Vassa is a horse we like a lot. He shows huge speed at home and I wouldn't be surprised if he is like Riven Light and may be better over nearer a mile.

He has been beaten in his last two forays to the racecourse by Sea The Lion and has risen 14lbs without winning, which is frustrating. He carries top-weight tonight and so Danny takes the reins but, like Riven Light, he is built to carry the weight.

Wicklow Brave is a horse which has been very good to me. I won a bumper here on him in his youth and Willie has found him a fantastic opportunity in the Rockshore Race.

He is well clear of ratings and should get his head in front again after his confidence-booster in Killarney.


6.50: Gustavus Vassa

7.25: Wicklow Brave

8.25: Top OThe Ra

Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport