Tony McCoy delights in driving Gilgamboa to victory for Enda Bolger
Champion jockey produces a trademark finish in Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup
A crow takes flight as the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle Championship field approaches at Fairyhouse yesterday. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The clock ticking down to retirement means every Tony McCoy winner is becoming a landmark moment but a first success for Enda Bolger on Gilgamboa in Fairyhouse’s Easter Sunday highlight was one jump-racing’s most successful ever jockey clearly relished.
That victory in the Grade One €100,000 Ryanair Gold Cup was a 150th career success in Ireland over flat and jumps had to take second place as McCoy revelled in breaking his duck for the hugely popular Bolger.
“Fair play to Enda: he’s always had great faith in this horse and has brought him back in fantastic shape. He’d lost his way a bit but that can happen to horses trying to chase Un De Sceaux,” said McCoy in reference to Gilgamboa’s subsequent sub-par performance after failing to reel in the brilliant Arkle winner in January.
“As a proud Irish fellah, I’d like to have ridden here more but circumstances meant much of my career has been in Britain and it has been very good to me,” McCoy said after Gilgamboa’s victory. “This is the third time I’ve won that race so I’ll certainly miss coming here.”
With bookmakers reckoning he has a favourite’s chance aboard Cantlow, there will be a surge of popular support for McCoy in today’s Irish National and Gilgamboa’s victory showed how irresistible the man closing in on a 20th jockeys championship can be.
The horse appeared to be struggling before the straight as Gitane Du Berlais and Smashing disputed the lead but McCoy got Gilgamboa into overdrive by the last and had half a length in hand of the fast-finishing The Tullow Tank.
“The first thing he said was how happy he was to ride a winner for me,” said Bolger who won the race when it was known as the Power Gold Cup as a 19-year-old amateur jockey on Step Together in 1983.
“The slow ground helped us today but so did the jockey: the man on his back made up his mind for him and he battled. He was jumping a little slowly at one stage but once AP got dug in, he stayed on well,” added Bolger who later this week aims his Cheltenham winner On The Fringe at Aintree’s Foxhunters.
Gitane Du Berlais eventually faded to fourth and the all-dominant Willie Mullins was also out of luck in the Grade One Mares Hurdle, saddling the second, third and fourth behind the English-trained Bitofapuzzle.
The Noel Fehily-ridden winner was a first Grade One success for her trainer Harry Fry.
“They went a real gallop from the start and the conditions suited her so Noel pressed on from a long way out as she’s a three-miler, really. She’s as hard as nails and basically ground them into submission,” said Fry.
“The race conditions suited him well but I didn’t think he’d handle the tacky ground as well as he did. I would imagine he will go to Punchestown and Nichols Canyon (also owned by Graham Wylie) will go to Aintree,” said Mullins.
The champion trainer already has Cheltenham 2016 in his thoughts for Castello Sforza, a €65,000 purchase who landed the €100,000 Tattersalls Bumper on his debut.
Carrying the same Pearl Bloodstock colours of Qatari Prince Fahad as the Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, the 9-2 shot came through to win the valuable pot in comfortable style.
Mullins confirmed the four year old with the powerful international connections has been bought with Cheltenham in mind. “I’ve no intention of taking him to Punchestown though. He might go for that Curragh bumper or we’ll put him away,” said Mullins. The Easter Sunday crowd of 7,456 was up over 400 on last year.