Willie and Patrick Mullins team up to take Galway Hurdle

Sharjah defied top-weight to romp home at 12-1 on a grey and rainy day at Ballybrit

Sharjah ridden by Patrick Mullins following their victory in the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap (Grade A) during day four of the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sharjah ridden by Patrick Mullins following their victory in the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap (Grade A) during day four of the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Patrick Mullins was frustrated at missing out on Monday’s big amateur prize but, as consolation goes, winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle on Sharjah took some beating.

The €300,000 festival highlight is Ireland’s richest hurdle race and hadn’t been won by an amateur jockey in 27 years. It was almost two decades since a top-weight had managed to win it too.

But a couple of days after Riven Light defied a monster impost in the big Mile race here, Sharjah confounded the statistics once more to beat his stable companion Blazer by three lengths.

It was a 1-2 for Willie Mullins and a third victory in the week’s most valuable race for the festival’s dominant figure who saddled a hat-trick on Thursday that brought his tally for this week already to eight winners.

However, even the new ‘King of Ballybrit’ described his son’s latest big race success as “extraordinary” while giving an insight into the regime that has helped turn the 28-year-old into a record-breaking 10-time champion amateur.

“As a rider he’s in a different league (to me) thankfully. For his size and weight the commitment he shows is huge. Every morning he wakes up at 11.7 or 11.8 and every day he’s minding himself,” Mullins Snr said. “I wouldn’t live on what he survives on for a day!”

His son’s invariably modest response is that others do the same for less reward and with little likelihood of the getting the opportunities he gets.

The latest was to get on the highest weighted of his father’s six Galway Hurdle runners. But the sureness of touch Mullins showed throughout the race testified to a fine racing brain and once again probably left many professional colleagues grateful his six foot frame rules out joining them.

“The Galway Hurdle is one of the iconic races. I never thought I’d ride in it, let alone win it,” Mullins said after securing a victory that banished memories of failing to break his ‘amateur Derby’ hoodoo on Monday.

“I should have won a Grade One on him at Christmas when he fell at the last and I thought if he came back to that form he had a chance. He travelled great and all I had to do was steer him,” Mullins added.

The fact his father urged Ruby Walsh to pick Max Dynamite (11th) over the 9-2 favourite Whiskey Sour who finished seventh only reflects how plotting a Galway Hurdle course can be fraught with uncertainty even before the race starts.

Two cross-channel raiders, Leoncavallo and Bedrock, filled third and fourth and the latter in particular found out just how difficult a race it can be, blowing the start and being relegated to last before storming home too late.

Willie Mullins’s new Galway dominance was hammered home on the rest of the card too as a third ‘Leading Trainer’ award is already all but wrapped up.

Calie Du Mesnil led home a Mullins 1-2-3 in the novice hurdle while Minella Beau scored a gutsy Beginners Chase win under Walsh.

But such overwhelming dominance in the trainer’s ranks can’t distract from an extraordinary week too for local owner, Mrs Annette Mee. She saw her colours carried to a fifth success of the week when Camlann won the mile and a half handicap at 9-2.

And in the midst of these various degrees of festival dominance, the man who filled the Galway throne for so long, Dermot Weld, still managed to get off the mark for the week as Yulong Gold Fairy landed the Listed Corrib Stakes.

Her rider Shane Foley has been appointed as retained jockey to her Chinese owner Zhang Yuesheng and enjoyed his first ever winner for Weld as the 13-8 favourite proved a neck too good for Panstarr.

“To ride one for Mr Weld around Galway is very good,” said Foley who doubled his classic tally with Romanised in May’s Irish 2,000 Guineas and is now contracted to ride for an emerging force in the ownership ranks.

Reassuringly there was also room on Thursday for Rashaan to record a dramatic Grade Three novice chase victory for his trainer Colin Kidd.

“That’s 12 wins now. To have a horse like him in my yard is something you couldn’t dream,” Kidd said. “Only for him I don’t know where I’d be.”

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