BY MICHAEL O’LEARY
Next weeks Galway Racing Festival is one of the great Sporting and Social Highlights of the summer, and over the years it has produced so many magical memories particularly from a local perspective.
Not surprisingly, the Mullins family have had plenty of success including the featured Races, the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle.
Paddy Mullins had memorable days in Ballybrit as he trained the winner of The Galway Plate three times.Boro Quarter with Peter Kavanagh onboard won in 1986 before The Gooser ridden by Adrian Maguire wonThe Plate in 1992.Meanwhile, in 2003 he was the oldest trainer atthe age of 84 to train the winner of The Plate as Robbie Power was on board Nearly a Moose. That victory in 2003 came on the back of Vintage Tipples memorable triumph in The Irish Oaks with Frankie Dettori on board.
The Oaks win proved the versality and adapdability of the Goresbridge maestro which he showed on numerous occassions. He also trained the winner of The Galway Hurdle four times courtesy of Negrada 1976, Prince Tammy 1978, Pearlstone 1980 and Camden Buzz 1993
Paddy’s Son Willie has had great success at The Galway Festival, and in more recent years he has become the leading trainer throughout the week.
The Champion Trainer has trained The Galway Hurdle winner on 5 occassions, with the first coming in 1996 courtesy of Mystical City with David Casey on board.
He had to wait though until 2016 as Ruby Walsh rode Clondaw Warrior to victory with The Shark Hanlon trained Hidden Cyclone filling the runner-up spot.
Willie has trained The winner of The Galway Hurdle on three further occassions over the past 5 years with Sharjah(2018), Aramon(2020) and Saldier(2021) all obliging with his son Patrick onboard. He has also trained the winner of The Galway Plate twice with Blazing Tempo (2011) and Royal Rendezvous(2021) as Champion Jockey Paul Townend was the winning rider on both occassions.
Meanwhile, Patrick Mullins finally won The Amateur Handicap last year after several years of trying when he came with a perfectly timed ride aboard Echoes Of Rain to give Willie his fourth win in 6 years.
Tony Mullins has had memorable days in the West most notably with Princess Zoe in 2020, while in 1988 he trained Afford a King to win The Galway Plate with his Gowran neighbour Podge Gill on board.
There is actually a photo of Tony and Podge after that Galway Plate win in one of the coffee shops within the racecourse.
Princess Zoe was one of the great feel good stories during that difficult COVID period in 2020.
Having very impressively won The Ladies Derby at The Curragh, Princess Zoe went on and continued her upward progression with two featured victories at The Galway Festival. With Finian Maguire on board, she won The Amateur Handicap before winning The Galway Shopping Centre five days later with Joey Sheridan on steering duty.
The filly went back to the Galway September Festival and she won The Listed feature, The Ardilaun Hotel Oyster Stakes before securing her most famous victory by winning the Group 1 Qatar Prix du Cadran in Longchamp.
Danny has yet to win either The Plate or The Hurdle but when he burst onto the scene in 2008, the then 16-year-old rode a treble on The Friday Evening of The Festival, while a year later he was on Rock n Roll Kid to win the €140,000 Galway Mile Handicap. That was a very special moment as Rock n Roll Kid was trained by his Dad Tony in the colours of Barry Connell.
Tom Mullins also enjoyed glory days in Galway as Fosters Cross was such a popular winner in The Amateur Handicap in 2011, while a year later in 2012, Bob Lingo ridden by Mark Walsh in the colours of JP McManus won The Galway Plate.
Elsewhere, Kilkenny Trainers and Jockeys from around the county have enjoyed glory at the famous festival.
Eoin Griffin from Slieverue who recently enjoyed big race success in Bellewstown courtesy of 20/1 Wouldn’t You Agree trained Admiral Barry to win The Amateur Handicap in 2010, while from Donagh Meyler from nearby Kilmacow was on board The Gordon Elliott trained Lord Scoundrel to win The Plate in 2016.
Piltown native and former Champion Trainer Frances Crowley enjoyed one of the highlights of her career when Moscow Express with Ruby Walsh on board won The Plate in 1999, while Frances nephew Joseph O’Brien has trained both The winner of The Plate with Early Doors(2020) and The Hurdle with Tigris River(2017).
Joseph’s Dad Aidan O’Brien won consecutive Galway Plates with Life of a Lord in 1995 and 1996, while in 1997 twenty-times Champion Jockey AP McCoy was on Toast The Spreece to win The Galway Hurdle.
South Kilkenny Native Seamus O’Farrell had a day to remember when he trained Perugino Diamond – who he also owned/bred -for a famous triumph in The Galway Hurdle back in 2000 with Gold Cup/Grand National winning jockey Jimmy Culloty on board, while in 2011 Inistioge native Tom Doyle was in the saddle to win The Hurdle feature for The Glenmore based Three Friars syndicate.
Leading flat Jockey Shane Foley was leading rider at last years Festival and that included a treble on the opening day of the meeting, while his Graiguenamanagh neighbour Mikey Sheehy had one of his biggest success at the Galway Festival 2021 where he won the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap on the Ado McGuinness-trained Sirjack Thomas.
Gowran native Kevin O’Donnell had a winner at The Festival when Sophies World won one of The Handicaps, while his Dad Kevin Senior enjoyed a big race victory in 2003 when Aine Dubh – who he Owned/Trained and Bred – won The €50,000 Dawn Milk Handicap Hurdle.
Finally, last years Festival was highlighted by the victory of Hewick in The Galway Plate trained by John “Shark” Hanlon.
Hewick was a fairytale success having been bought for €850, and all going well he will back for a repeat attempt next Wednesday (2nd August) to follow in the footsteps of Life of a Lord(1995 & 1996) and Ansar(2004 & 2005) who won consecutive Galway Plates.
The Galway Races are one of the great highlights on the Sporting Calendar that has produced so many magical moments, and no doubt 2023 will produce more memorable moments that will live long in the memory.