Donagh Meyler guides Lord Scoundrel to Galway Plate win

Young 20-year-old jockey aims to follow up in Galway Hurdle on Quick Jack

Donagh Meyler celebrates on Lord Scoundrel after winning the TheTote.com Galway Plate (Handicap Chase) during day three of the Galway Festival in Ballybrit. Photograph:  PA Wire.

Donagh Meyler celebrates on Lord Scoundrel after winning the TheTote.com Galway Plate (Handicap Chase) during day three of the Galway Festival in Ballybrit. Photograph: PA Wire.

 

Winning the Tote Galway Plate on Lord Scoundrel was always going to guarantee popularity for his young jockey Donagh Meyler but the 2016 finish of Ireland’s most coveted summer steeplechase prize ensured post-race loneliness was never going to be the 20 year old’s problem.

 Regular complaints about a perceived lack of competition in top National Hunt races are usually confined to graded races but Galway’s handicap feature ultimately turned into a private contest between the country’s top trainers, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.

 Each had three among the first six and Mullins endured the frustration of having the second, third and fourth as his great rival enjoyed a first Plate success with the Michael O’Leary owned Lord Scoundrel. Between them they secured all €220,000 of the prizemoney.  

 It was a second Plate for O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud operation whose 2014 winner Road To Riches was a massive gamble down to 9-4 favourite but never looked happy and was pulled up before the second last. He was found to have struck into a back leg, lost a shoe and finished slightly lame.

 Gigginstown’s stated focus is on top Grade One races but this latest Plate victory added to big handicap wins earlier this year in the English and Irish Nationals while Elliott supplied Don Cossack to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 So in the news-angle circumstances Meyler got gratefully pounced upon as something new and the 20-year-old from Kilmacow in Co. Kilkenny showed as cool a head in response to the attention as he did in guiding the 10-1 winner.

 That was no surprise as despite still claiming 5lbs he had scythed down top names, Ruby Walsh, Paul Townend and David Mullins on board the Closutton trio, as well as Jack Kennedy on Lord Scoundrel’s stable companion, Clarcam, to win in style.

 “It’s surreal, what you dream of growing up,” he said, obliging the media throng by also filling in a background which still leaves him with ten winners to get before losing a 5lb claim, something that looks only a matter of time.

 It may be even quicker if Quick Jack can successfully defend his Galway Hurdle title on Thursday, something Meyler would love to do for his boss, Tony Martin.

 “Tony’s horses are coming into form at the right time. Quick Jack is in great form and loves it around here,” the jockey said before recounting a hugely exciting Plate success which saw the first half dozen spread across the track on the run-in.

 “He winged the second last and once he met the rising ground he really put his head down,” added Meyler who got a four day ban for his use of the whip. “It’s brilliant. I can’t believe it.”

 Even Elliott, a man with an Aintree National also under his belt, looked thrilled with a first success in a major Galway festival prize after pitching five into the race, four of them for Gigginstown.

 “It’s unfortunate for Bryan (Cooper) who picked Road To Riches, and Jack who picked Clarcam. It was Donagh’s first ride for me and it was good,” said Elliott who nevertheless still had an eye on the big picture.

 “Winning these races keeps you up there in the trainer’s championship for a while. Unfortunately I’m up against Willie Mullins - but we might keep tabs on him for a little longer now!” Elliott added.

 An earlier mares handicap hurdle may have been worth just a fraction of the Plate but it was incident packed with three incidents producing five fallers, including Robbie Power who was left with a suspected fractured cheek and Conor Maxwell who broke his nose.

 Davy Russell came down on the flat in that race, finished runner up in the following handicap on the well backed favourite Sea Light and subsequently cried off riding in the Plate complaining of back pain.

 The former champion had been foiled at the finish by claimer Brien Kane who rode Plain Talking to a half length victory despite having been among the fallers in the previous race. “I wasn’t going to miss this mare,” Kane said.

 Amateur Harley Dunne was suspended for four day for careless riding in the race after an incident on the turn-in.

 Dermot Weld had two odds-on failures on the card but Shane Foley secured a happier double with Katiymann and Millefiori. Foley got a two day ban for careless riding on the latter.

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