Aubrey McMahon the amateur king of Galway again
Ruby Walsh marked his return to the track by riding the first winner of the festival
Uradel ridden by Aubrey McMahon wins The Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap during day one of the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Patrick Mullins is the most successful ever amateur jockey but confesses he’s going to have to take Aubrey McMahon aside and find out how to win Irish racing’s most coveted amateur prize.
For the second year running McMahon, 20, landed the €100,000 Connacht Hotel Handicap, widely regarded as the sport’s ‘amateur Derby,’ on the first day of the Galway festival.
Successful on Whiskey Sour in 2017, McMahon again carried his father’s colours and upset the Willie Mullins pecking order with Uradel at 12-1 proving too strong for the 2-1 favourite Limini.
On his 12th attempt to win the famous race, Patrick Mullins looked to have ridden the perfect race as Limini cruised to the front on the turn-in.
But if Limini was cruising, so was Uradel. McMahon’s handful of career winners pales next to Mullins’s 549 and his style is rudimentary in comparison. But when it counted up the Ballybrit hill it was Uradel who emerged on top. The pair finished nine lengths clear of the rest.
“I had Patrick in my sights all the way and I thought this horse was well handicapped,” exclaimed McMahon. “I haven’t been able to sleep all week thinking about riding this fellow. I knew he’d give me a great spin.”
It was a 1-2 for Willie Mullins who praised the winning rider: “It’s a huge achievement for Aubrey, to do that as a 7lb claimer, and win the race again. It’s something that probably will never be repeated.”
There was obvious disappointment for the trainer’s son who had finished third to McMahon in 2017.
Prior to the race he admitted to coveting the prize and for much of the race it looked his for the taking. Mullins had no excuses though and said afterwards: “Aubrey has a knack of winning this race – I’m going to have to sit him down and find out what it is!”
The third Mullins big race runner, Chelkar, was disappointing and was afterwards found to be coughing.
Mullins got a good start to the defence of his Leading Trainer award at the festival with an opening day double.
It began with Ruby Walsh’s perfect comeback from the broken leg he sustained at Cheltenham in March as Easy Game at 5-4 landed the opening novice hurdle.
At Cheltenham Walsh had only just returned from breaking the same leg last November and the 39 year old said: “It’s a relief. I’ve only had a week’s work in the last nine months. I hope I last a bit longer than a week this time!
“It has been a long enough old road. I’ve been ready for a fortnight or three weeks and this was always the target.”
The other jumps event on Day One went to Walsh’s fellow veteran Barry Geraghty who was on the right one of trainer Denis Hogan’s half-dozen runners, the 10-1 shot Storm Rising.
Geraghty, 38, wasn’t required for either of the runners owned by his boss, JP McManus, and was at his strongest in the closing stages to hold the gambled on Kellyiscool by a neck.
Ger Lyons began the day describing the festival in his blog as “an example of how PR and hype can promote something relatively ordinary into something bigger than anyone ever expected it to be.”
After Zander pounced late to land the juvenile maiden at 10-1, the trainer quipped: “I don’t know what these trainers are on about, giving out about the place!”
Zander’s performance rewarded the decision to bring him out again just four days after he ruined his chance at Down Roy by getting unruly in the stalls.
“This is where you earn your money – you make calls to run back,” Lyons said. “Everything went wrong on Friday night. It turned into a piece of work for him so I took the view if the rain falls, he’s okay and eats up, then I’d come back here on Monday.”
Co. Meath based trainer Michael Mulvany saddled a first ever festival winner when Premier League ran out a wide-margin winner of the seven furlong handicap.
It was another Mullins, the champion trainer’s nephew, Emmet, who supplied Zero Ten to win the bumper. Ironically the big race hero, Aubrey McMahon, looked to get run away with beforehand and his mount Batcio was withdrawn.