Tigris River denies Swamp Fox in Galway hurdle thriller
Tigris River got up in the shadow of the post to win the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle at the Ballybrit course.
Swamp Fox looked the likely winner when he headed Airlie Beach at the final flight, but Barry Geraghty gained ground hand over fist on the run-in and was rewarded for his efforts on the Joseph O'Brien-trained six-year-old.
Geraghty, the retained jockey to owner JP McManus, only returned from injury on Monday but showed plenty of strength in the saddle to snatch the 177,000 euros first prize on the 5-1 chance, who was fifth 12 months ago.
Grade One-winning mare Airlie Beach kept on gamely for third place, with Joey Sasa fourth.
There was drama at the first flight when Ivan Grozny, Court Minstrel and Ancient Sands all came down.
Victory was extra special for the winning trainer, as it was 20 years ago that his father Aidan got his name on the roll of honour with Toast The Spruce.
"Barry gave him a great ride. The horse was probably flat out the whole way because he was probably a bit further back than ideal," O'Brien said of Tigris River, who won by a neck.
"I'm delighted as the preparation went perfect, but I didn't think he'd get there at the last. There's no stronger man in the saddle than Barry, though."
Geraghty said: "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.
"Joseph had this fella in great shape. Having said that, he never looked a winner until the death.
"I wasn't confident of getting to the one in front, but my horse was brave."
McManus said: "Galway is a marvellous meeting and the excitement and the build up is so important. When Punchestown goes, everyone speaks about Galway and the Plate and the Hurdle, and what you might have that you can maybe programme them for.
"Joseph did a great job with Tigris River, because he's been looking after him since he ran here last year, when he didn't get the clearest of runs, and he thought maybe we should head back here this year.
"Joseph deserves this success, he's very dedicated - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!
"Barry's had a good Galway and it's great to have him back, he showed great strength to get him home, from the last especially."
Joe Murphy, trainer of runner-up Swamp Fox, who had just been touched off on Monday, said: "We're very proud of the horse.
"He's a marvellous horse to come back four days later after having a bad cut.
"I thought we just had it, but he's a pleasure to have.
"As long as he's sound tomorrow and lives to fight another day, that's the main thing."
O'Brien had taken the opening Guinness Galway Gold Beginners Chase with Tesseract, who held Dont Tell No One by a neck.
"JJ (Slevin) gave him a lovely positive ride and was good and positive on him. His jumping was much better today and I'm delighted," said the County Kilkenny trainer of the 7-1 scorer.
"He has never run at that trip until now and it would make sense to stick to that trip and we'll find a novice next."
O'Brien senior got on the scoresheet with Music Box (4-1 joint-favourite), who put up a career-best performance in her 13th start of the season when taking Listed honours in the Arthur Guinness Irish EBF Corrib Fillies Stakes.
Ridden by the trainer's son, Donnacha, the daughter of Invincible Spirit tracked the pacesetting Duchess Of France until hitting the front on the turn for home in a race very few horses got into.
"I got a nice position and she stayed on nicely when I asked her," said the winning rider.
"She had some good runs and she could progress further."
Rathvinden (7-2 co-favourite) showd he could be a horse to follow through the jumps season when winning the Guinness Open Gate Brewery Novice Chase.
Held up early on, Willie Mullins' nine-year-old was brought with a late challenge by Paul Townend to beat Potters Point by five lengths.
"He jumped great. He was taken off his feet a bit early on but once he got into his jumping rhythm it all depended on what the ones up front had left," said Mullins.
"Paul was happy enough that he had plenty up his sleeve and it worked out.
"He missed a lot of time through injury but he's fine now and he had the rating and he had the form.
"He was only three or four lengths behind Faugheen as a novice hurdler.
"He'll keep novice chasing through the summer and the end game might be the Drinmore if he keeps going the right way."