Ruby Walsh guides Clondaw Warrior to Galway Hurdle win

Champion jockey’s inspired ride helps him fill the remaining gap in a glorious career CV

Ruby Walsh on board Clondaw Warrior celebrates victory in the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle at Ballybrit. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ruby Walsh on board Clondaw Warrior celebrates victory in the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle at Ballybrit. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

There were narratives aplenty going into the Guinness Galway Hurdle but it was Ruby Walsh who produced a sublime punchline with the champion jockey finally landing the only big race to have eluded him in a storied career on board Clondaw Warrior. 

The 9-2 favourite landed a gamble in Ireland’s richest jumps race and Walsh celebrated it with a fervour to match any of his Gold Cup, Grand National or Champion Hurdle victories over the years. 

If there was relief at finally filling an annoying CV gap, it was trumped by Clondaw Warrior being quarter-owned by his wife Gillian in a syndicate which also includes Áine Casey, wife of his great friend, and former top jockey, David Casey.

But mixed up in at all too must have been pride at yet another special big race ride that Willie Mullins described as miraculous.

It was 20 years since the champion trainer had won his sole Galway Hurdle with the Casey-ridden Mystical City. Walsh had continued to find the race maddeningly elusive. It would have helped to be well-in with the owners but in the circumstances this was still a big race ride of rare daring and skill.

Stuck on the rail with most of the field still ahead of him coming down the hill, Walsh stuck limpet-like to the inside before slaloming his way through to challenge at the last. That he then had to employ that famous final finishing drive to full effect in holding off the 25-1 outsider Hidden Cyclone only added to the drama.

Clondaw Warrior was bought out of the yard of Hidden Cyclone’s trainer ‘Shark Hanlon,’ since when his progress has taken in victory at Royal Ascot, notable runs at glamorous flat extravaganzas in York and Longchamp, and could even take him to Arlington Park in Chicago in just three weeks’ time. Nothing he achieves though is likely to trump a Galway Hurdle success which saw Mullins’s other hope, the topweight Bamako Moriviere, finish third with Modem in fourth. Clondaw Warrior had his own big weight but also proven course form which Walsh banked on.

“I hoped course form would overcome the weight. That can happen in Galway. But if it was a flat race I would have won a minute. I can’t see him going much higher over jumps and I’d love to go to Chicago with him (American St Leger) next,” he said.

“He’s been an amazing horse for the girls, taken us to Ascot and everywhere else. He was fit as a flea today and he really had to dig deep,” added the legendary 37-year-old.

Pyromaniac’s controversial appearance resulted in a seventh place for Tony Martin’s runner who, in contrast to the winner, raced wide throughout and faded in the closing stages. 

Earlier Walsh and Mullins combined to also score with another favourite, Bel Sas, who the jockey was sitting on for the first time after Bryan Cooper’s earlier fall from Tiger Roll in the novice chase won by Xsquared.

Cooper was unseated in the dip and crashed into the final fence. He was taken to hospital and treated for a partially collapsed lung.

Not many were suited by the flag start to the mile handicap but Total Demolition appeared an exception and the bottom weight came through to win under Conor Hoban.

The stalls malfunctioned for this race and one runner, Poetic Choice, lost all chance when ending up faced the other way as the starter dropped his flag.

He was being led by a stalls handler at the time. At an inquiry the stewards decided it was a fair start and referred the matter of a stalls handler leading Poetic Choice without permission to the Turf Club.      Even with three days to go, Galway 2016 is already assured a place in Andy Slattery’s heart after Planchart added the Listed Corrib Stakes to Tuesday’s big handicap victory of her stable companion Creggs Pipes for the Co. Tipperary trainer.

“A Listed and a premier handicap in one week is not too bad!” Slattery smiled.

Remarkably there was a second 66-1 winner of a Beginners Chase this week as Scamall Dubh just beat the favourite Marinero in a driving finish under Mark Enrigh.

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