GALWAY had a hint of black and amber to it after horses from all over the county scored success after success at what is one of Ireland’s biggest racing festivals.
The large contingent of Kilkenny punters were sent on their way when Tom Mullins and Fosters Cross landed the big amateur handicap on the opening evening of the festival. Tom’s brother Willie then recorded his first ever success in the time-honoured Galway Plate courtesy of Blazing Tempo and who will ever forget the scenes in the winners enclosure as the Glenmore-owned Moon Dice captured the Galway Hurdle with Inistioge-born Tom Doyle in the saddle.
If ever a horse deserved to win a big race it was Fosters Cross, which has mixed it with the best at every level. There was a good deal of confidence behind him in the E75,000 amateur handicap over two miles and he did the business in style.
Rider Colin Motherway decided to let him bowl along from an early stage and he had everything in trouble leaving the dip. From there he kept up the relentless gallop, recording a four length success over Cry For The Moon. A Grade Three Novice Chase winner at the venue a couple of seasons ago, the Dr Massini gelding’s most recent form was in flat handicaps but the return to something like his best trip proved to be decisive.
The victory evoked some nostalgic memories as the winner was sporting the colours of long-time supporter of the yard Pat O’Donovan. Pat also owned the 2003 Irish Oaks winner Vintage Tipple, which was trained by the trainer’s late father Paddy.
Although he has won virtually everything in the jumping game Willie Mullins had never saddled the winner of the Galway Plate. However, all that was put right on Wednesday when Blazing Tempo, under a polished ride from Paul Townend, captured the spoils - for good measure the stable’s other runners finished fourth and fifth.
Bred by Willie Austin, who also bred the great Danoli, the Accordion mare was a heavily-supported favourite in this two mile and six contest. She raced off the pace early on but began to pick off the leaders going down the back on the final circuit.
Townend was content to wait until well after the home turn to produce her and she picked up well to beat Wise Old Owl by a length and a quarter. It was a fairytale comeback for the rider who was out of action with a shoulder injury since the Punchestown festival, where he was crowned Irish Champion jockey for the first time.
Mullins revealed post-race that he has hit the crossbar a couple of times before finally getting his name on the roll of honour. He was also placed second on Doubtful Venture when riding as an amateur back in 1984. Blazing Tempo bridged a 25-year gap as she was the first mare to win the race since Boro Quarter which was trained by the legendary Paddy.
Thursday will go down in history as the day that Kilkenny horses ran riot in Galway. Margaret Mullins recorded a double, Tom Mullins scored his second victory of the meeting while Moon Dice ran out a comfortable winner over Fosters Cross in the Galway Hurdle, the richest race on the Irish jumping calendar.
The Saddlers Hall gelding Down In Neworleans provided the first leg of the double for Margaret with a smooth success in the two mile and a furlong beginners chase. Given a textbook ride by Margaret’s son Danny, the seven-year-old was always up with the pace. He edged ahead off the home turn and ran all the way to the line where he had three and a half lengths to spare over Gracchus.
Out of the Supreme leader mare Miss Muppet the winner is a half-brother to the decent hurdlers Chomba Womba and Backspin, who were both bumper winners for the trainer.
Cairdin, under a typically strong drive from Patrick Mullins, gave Margaret her first double as a trainer when landing the bumper. Well supported, the son of Accordion set off in front but relinquished the advantage at the halfway point. He was one of the first to come under pressure but responded in the gamest possible fashion to regain the advantage on the punishing climb to the straight, staying on well to record a four length success over Law Rebel.
Tavern Times justified the confidence behind him to record a workmanlike victory in the two mile and four novice hurdle. Returning from a long layoff, the Presenting gelding travelled well in the hands of Davy Russell. He led two out and was not unduly perturbed as he beat Endless Intrigue by two and a half lengths.
Russell, whose father Jerry owns a share of the winner, revealed that the horse suffered a bad cut to his leg at Naas back in January and has done well to came back at all. He will go jumping fences and looks an exciting recruit to the larger obstacles.
By far the biggest cheer of the week was reserved for Moon Dice which provided the Glenmore-based Three Friars syndicate with a hugely exciting victory in the Galway hurdle. Always within sight of the leading Fosters Cross, the James Aylward-bred six year old slipped on before the last flight and with Tom Doyle keeping him up to his work beat the gallant Fosters Cross by four and a half lengths.
The scenes which followed in the winners enclosure would do justice to Cheltenham or Epsom, as most of the inhabitants of the village seemed to be present. Flynn announced that his charge runs best when fresh and he will now be given a break before being prepared for a crack at a valuable handicap hurdle at November meeting at the Cheltenham.