THEY often say to pray when all else fails and divine intervention did Brian Duffy no harm after Magic Chegaga (6/1) overcame travel problems en route to Galway before landing the €120,000 Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap at Ballybrit yesterday.
It was easily the biggest success of Duffy's training career – and just his fourth in total – but it very nearly never happened after the horse box overheated in Rochfortbridge and they pulled into a nearby churchyard to assess the damage.
The Meath-based trainer, who also works in a logistics company, took a moment's break inside the house of God to pray for better luck before the five-year-old mare was shipped in with stablemate Mean Fomhair in a separate box for the rest of the journey.
It wasn't ideal preparation, but everything went smoothly when she hit the track as Colin Keane negotiated a tough draw in stall 19 to score by half a length on Duffy's red-letter day.
"You couldn't make it up, it's unbelievable," a beaming Duffy said. "We just have four in training, a restricted licence, and half my yard are running here tonight. It's unbelievable to have one to run in this never mind win it. It's unbelievable to get it amongst all the real trainers, I'm only a minnow.”
There was bedlam in the winners' enclosure as members of the Magic Lads Syndicate rejoiced in front of 13,132 spectators – down 1,323 from 2019's attendance – as their €12,500 online purchase came good in spectacular fashion.
Keane's connection with Duffy goes back a few generations and having announced himself on the big stage when winning the same race as a 5lb claimer nine years ago – after also encountering his own car problems – he proved why he is the best in the business once again.
“We had the champion on board and he's champion for a reason, he gave her a super ride," Duffy said of the three-time Irish champion rider.
Dermot Weld also proved himself to be the 'King of Ballybrit' once again after bagging his 15th success in the Colm Quinn BMW Fillies Maiden and he has an exciting juvenile on his hands with Tahiyra (7/2) coasting to victory under Chris Hayes.
The mighty Tarnawa, her half-sister, could only muster third in the same race four years ago before later landing a Group One hat-trick and Weld waxed lyrical about the potential of the Siyouni filly.
“At this stage she probably has more pace than Tarnawa. Let's hope she has the wonderful courage and constitution that Tarnawa had. This filly is very talented in her own right,” Weld said.
"She has a lot of the characteristics of her sister, she's very similar in many ways and she showed immediate talent. We'll see how she comes out of her race, but she'll go at stakes level next time."
There was a shock in the opener as the Listed Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle went to Flaming Moon (11/1) – partly-owned by Offaly hurling legend Pat Delaney – after Matthew Smith decided to hold firm and let the five-year-old take his place.
"I entered him half-thinking I wouldn't run him, but I said we'd let him take his chance," Smith said after a big jump at the last under Bryan Cooper helped to seal the deal with today's mile handicap on the flat possibly next on his agenda.
The Latin Quarter Beginners Chase went the way of fencing debutant Enniskerry (8/1) with owner/trainer Barry Connell having big plans in mind for the eight-year-old after an exhibition of jumping under Sean Flanagan.
“Maybe next year," Connell said when asked if he could be a future Galway Plate horse. "You'd be hoping he might be a Drinmore horse. We might give him a little break and come back for something like the Drinmore."
Gavin Ryan had a memorable night with a 36/1 double kicked off by the Pat Murphy-trained Coreman (100/30) in the Caulfield Industrial Maiden before taking the closing handicap on Clear Quartz (15/2), trained by Mark Fahey.
Italian native Natalia Lupini also got in on the act when Dunum (5/1 favourite) lived up to his name and swooped late under Wayne Lordan to collar long-time leader Shawaamekh (15/2).