Having enjoyed his first bite of the cherry eight years ago, Mark Walsh is ready to properly revel in a Tote Galway Plate triumph at the second time of asking, writes Bradley West.
It was all the way back in 2012 that the 34-year-old jockey first got his hands on the prestigious trophy, when he saddled the Thomas Mullins-trained, JP McManus-owned Bob Lingo to victory at Ballybrit.
And almost a decade on he doubled up, winning a typically frenetic 2m6f contest on Early Doors to give the ever-evolving Joseph O’Brien his first Plate success and seal another in the famous McManus colours.
With more miles on the clock now than when he won on the ten-year-old Bob Lingo, it appears Walsh is set to enjoy the feat far more this time.
“It's brilliant [to win this], the older you get the more you appreciate these big races,” Walsh said.
“It is a brilliant race and it is unfortunate the owners and crowd can’t be here to see it, but I don’t mind too much!
“I got a good start, he jumped brilliant for the first circuit, he travelled great, the cheekpieces were a big help to him.
“I kicked on and had something to aim up the hill, in fairness he stayed on all the way to the line.
“Loads of lads have ridden in these big races. You just have to have your wits about you at the start.”
The result was all the more significant given it represented a first victory over fences for Early Doors, who sported cheekpieces for the first time here.
And, despite being widely tipped to do well and drawing comparisons to Carlingford Lough in the build-up, the seven-year-old was forced to do it the hard way to claim the €118,000 prize ahead of Willie Mullins’ favourite Royal Rendezvous.
Before the race even began there was big news when Gordon Elliott’s heavy favourite Galvin was ruled out after it was discovered on arrival at the track that he had a bruised foot.
Then, it took two attempts to get the action underway but once it did we were treated to a lively encounter.
The pace was set by the Mullins duo of Livelovelaugh and Cabaret Queen, with the pair taking the final fence together ahead of the rest of the field.
From there, an impressive charge was mounted by outsider The West’s Awake but Early Doors showed that he has a good engine in delivering a decent show of pace to take to the front late on and seal the win.
Elsewhere, Mullins did enjoy success with three winners in the form of Kaatskill Nap in the Maiden Hurdle, Bon Retour in the Handicap Hurdle and Shewearsitwell in the Mares Flat Race.
And his great Irish rival Elliott bookended the day with a pair of winners, The Very Man claiming the Listed Novice Hurdle and Weseekhimhere winning the Flat Race.