Saldier gives Patrick Mullins Galway Hurdle hat-trick

The father-son team were also on the mark with M C Muldoon in the novice hurdle

Class won out once again in Thursday's Guinness Galway Hurdle as topweight Saldier gave champion amateur jockey Patrick Mullins a third victory in the festival highlight.

The dual-Grade winner made light of 11.10 in one of the most competitive handicaps of the year to win at 18-1 from the English raider Milkwood with the 6-1 favourite Cape Gentleman in third.

He was the centrepiece of a Willie Mullins four-timer on the all-jumps programme and all but assured him of a seventh leading trainer award in a row with three days still to go.

Saldier also completed the Galway Plate-Hurdle double for Mullins having landed Wednesday’s big chase prize with Royal Rendezvous.


He was the stable No. 1 but Saldier was the outsider of Mullins’s three runners, only the huge €250,000 pot swaying the trainer towards letting him line up.

Once again however Mullins’s son took full advantage of a big-race opportunity against professional rivals.

A year after guiding Aramon to Galway Hurdle glory under 11.10, and with 2018 success on Sharjah under his belt, the most successful amateur rider in history struck once more on a quality horse.

“These three horses are Grade 1 horses. They have class,” he said afterwards. “I know weight can stop trains but in this race they seem to be able to carry it.”

The rider also seems to have perfected the positional quandary the Galway Hurdle throws up.

He is just the fourth jockey to win it three times - alongside the renowned names, Jonjo O'Neill, Pat Taaffe and Joe Canty - and his record is in marked contrast to the 'amateur Derby' run on Day 1 of the festival which he has yet to win in 15 attempts.

Once again Mullins appeared to be in prime position throughout although when Cape Gentleman went to the front on the turn in a good jump at the last became vital.

“At the last hurdle we were very, very long. It was roll the dice and pray but he came up for me. Saldier deserves huge credit for that,” he reported.

Considering Saldier had experienced a horrific fall at Naas in 2018 that left his face “in bits” it was testament to his pluck that he and Mullins eventually powered up the hill to win by two lengths.

Mullins’s stamp on the race though was underlined by how quickly he closed a gap Milkwood was aiming for after the last and which helped seal the outcome.

“I never thought I’d get to ride in the race, let alone win it, as an amateur at my weight. I’ll have to try and win the Connacht Hotel Handicap next year,” he said. “And the Plate is on the list as well. We have more to do!”

The proud trainer praised his son’s commitment to the game considering he towers over six feet in height and faces a daily battle against weight.

“Every day he has to watch his weight. He has to waste most days going racing. Someone of his age and his height, it’s a huge commitment,” Mullins Snr said before also praising his temperament. “He’s a very relaxed kind of fellow - the only thing that upsets him is probably his father!”

The father-son team were also on the mark with M C Muldoon, the 11-8 favourite for a novice hurdle which saw him get the better of Enniskerry by half a length.

Earlier Paul Townend gave Fan De Blues a superb steer to pounce late on the Henry De Bromhead pair Gin On Lime and Bold Enough in the Grade 3 novice chase.

Townend though had to settle for the runner up spot in the opener as Brian Hayes on Farout beat his stable companion Tax For Max.

Mullins is on six winners for the week, halfway towards the dozen he pulled off at Galway in both 2017 and 2018.

His 2-1 favourite for the Beginners Chase, Bleu Berry, came up short in the Beginners Chase, having to settle for third behind the winner Streets Of Doyen who just held off Western Run’s late thrust.

The winner made it difficult for jockey Simon Torrens in the closing stages by idling in front and the rider reported; "He wore cheek-pieces over hurdles and I'd say it won't be too long before he gets them put on again.

"He's a classy horse. He went to Cheltenham and was third in the Albert Bartlett. He's been consistent all year and deserved to get his head in front."

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column