Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now completes JP McManus hat-trick

Noel Fehily rides 50-1 winner and announces his imminent retirement after festival

JP McManus’s famous green and gold colours visited the Cheltenham festival winners enclosure three times on Thursday.

A Grade One JLT victory for the English-trained Defi Du Seuil was followed by a remarkable Pertemps Final victory for Sire Du Berlais while more handicap success came in the concluding Kim Muir through Any Second Now.

In particular Barry Geraghty produced a master-class of strength and perseverance on Sire Du Berlais, the heavily backed 4-1 favourite landing the sort of gamble synonymous with his owner over the years.

That was in stark contrast to Willie Mullins’s 1-2 in the Tattersalls Mares Novice Hurdle which proved to be a skinning outcome for under-pressure layers as Eglantine De Seuil at 50-1 touched off her 66-1 stable companion Concertista.


The result could prove a landmark moment for Eglantine De Seuil's rider Noel Fehily.

The 43-year-old Irishman has two more rides for Mullins on Friday. But he announced after his seventh festival victory that he will retire from the saddle in the coming weeks.

“I’m not getting any younger and it’s a young man’s game,” Fehily announced. “This is going to be my last festival and I was hoping to get a winner here to be able to say it. It’s been a fantastic time but it’s time to let everyone else get on with it.”

Fehily’s CV includes a pair of Champion Hurdle wins on Rock On Ruby (2012) and Buveur D’Air in 2017. At that festival two years ago he also landed the Champion Chase on Special Tiara.

Having won the first three renewals of the race with hot favourites, Mullins maintained his dominance in unlikely style. It edged him one clear of Nicky Henderson (64-63) in the table of all-time Cheltenham trainers.

“I was watching Danny (Mullins) on Concertista the whole time and the next thing I saw something coming on the outside. I thought hopefully it’s one of my own as I had so many runners (seven) in it!” Mullins joked.

Barry Geraghty will be 40 in September but the rider served up a performance to rank with any of the previous 37 winners in his illustrious career on Sire Du Berlais.

At practically no point of the three mile contest did Sire Du Berlais look like a well-backed 4-1 market leader, never mind a likely winner.

Geraghty was perpetually having to niggle and cajole the Gordon Elliott trained hope. At the top of the hill interference meant subtlety got relegated behind some increasingly desperate urgings.

To his credit Sire Du Berlais never flinched but it required a drive comparable to Geraghty’s renowned Ryanair winning ride on Riverside City in 2012 to get him home by a neck from Tobefair. Afterwards the jockey got a two day suspension for his use of the whip.

If that provoked one wag to declare Geraghty could even Brexit over the line then his JLT spin on Defi Du Seuil came down to more subtle timing of a late thrust decisive enough to get the better of old rival Lostintranslation.

“They’re two really good horses,” Geraghty said for the first two home. “I was banking on a big one at the last and he came up for me. He definitely has quality.”

McManus’s 58th festival winner came from Any Second Now who powered though under Derek O’Connor to land the Kim Muir from Kilfilum Cross at 6-1 odds.

Never a winner in nine previous starts over fences, Any Second Now gave Ted Walsh a first festival success as a trainer since Commanche Court landed the 1997 Triumph Hurdle.

Walsh had previously won the Kim Muir twice as a jockey, on Castleruddery in 1974 and Prolan two years later.

“I only rode four winners here and I thought it was great. But Ruby can ride four in a day. That’s how different it is,” he said.

“But every year it seems to get better here. Some places lose their charm but everything they’ve done here has improved it,” Walsh added.

It was a first Kim Muir for O’Connor, a record breaking point to point rider, who predicted: “He could be a good staying horse, maybe for an Irish National or something like that.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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