Riven Light claims miraculous repeat win at Galway
Willie Mullins’s horse defies massive weight and poor draw to triumph after nine months out
Danny Mullins on Riven Light wins the the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap on day two of the Galway Racing Festival at Ballybrit. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Riven Light sealed a Lazarus-like return to glory by putting up one of the great weight-carrying performances to win Tuesday evening’s Galway feature for the second year running.
And if the horse produced a near miraculous performance by defying topweight, nine months on the sidelines, and the widest draw of all in the Colm Quinn BMW Mile, similar could be said for his trainer Willie Mullins.
Even in the context of the champion jump trainer’s most famous feats this was a singular achievement with a horse that last October was on the brink of death at the other side of the world.
After a Group One race at the Caulfield track in Melbourne, Riven Light was found to have fractured a pastern and local vets performed a superb job just to save his life.
Two screws put into the joint allowed Riven Light come back to Ireland six weeks later after which he was on the sidelines for four months.
A tentative return to work was aborted through lameness and another halt when the screws had to be removed must have made any idea of returning to Galway to defend the big mile crown seem far-fetched.
That he pitched up at all on Tuesday was a feat in itself. But carrying a monster 10.1 and parked widest of all in stall 18-of-18 made those who took 11-1 odds about him seem very romantic indeed.
But under a superbly cool Danny Mullins ride, Riven Light overcame everything to record a wonderfully unlikely success.
The gallant six-year-old arrived into the straight travelling beautifully on the outer and, after all he’d been through, the horse made the final hill look trifling.
At the line he was three parts of a length ahead of Bond Street with Rionach in third. Victory meant he emulated Pinch Hitter who won the famous festival highlight back to back in 1981-82 when it was known as the ‘McDonogh.’
“A huge surprise,” grinned the winning trainer who praised his nephew’s ride while admitting his expectations coming into the race were minimal.
“He suffered a fracture and it was touch and go if he lived or not. So we just wanted to get him started and didn’t know what he was going to do. We hadn’t dared gallop him on grass and he was very grumpy saddling up. But adrenaline kicks in. The 15mms of rain that fell was great,” he added.
That Riven Light was able to win in such circumstances off a mark of 108 means the world really could be his Group race oyster in future.
But whatever he does from now on this single performance will rank among Mullins’s finest training feats, up there with Hurricane Fly’s Grade One world record and Quevega’s Cheltenham festival six-timer.
Mullins was saddling his second successive festival double having earlier landed a listed novice hurdle which contained its own share of drama.
After his perfect comeback from injury in Monday’s opener, Ruby Walsh literally came back to earth with a bang 24 hours later. He was unseated from the favourite Exchange Rate at the first flight, a mishap that made little difference to Mullins who still won the race with his second string, Pakora.
That notorious final fence incident earned Townend a 21-day ban for dangerous riding.
“We’ve found it hard to keep her sound,” Mullins said of the winner. “She’s a filly that can go all the way if I can keep her right.”
The first obstacle also played a role in the beginners’ chase as the second favourite Chateau Conti unseated JJ Slevin.
At the end of an incident-packed race the chasing newcomer St Stephens Green was the most sure-footed to justify 3-1 favouritism for Mullins’s nephews, Emmet and David.
Co Meath-based trainer Sheila Lavery made sure day two wasn’t a total Mullins benefit though as she secured her own double through Truffles in the final handicap and Burning Question who’d earlier won the seven furlong maiden at 9-2 odds.
“The first one was relief – the second was excitement!” Lavery said.