Few things in racing are a certainty, but Shark Hanlon’s prediction was bang on at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, writes Bradley West.
Bought for just £600 last summer, Skyace’s fairy tale story has developed at pace with victories at Down Royal and Punchestown – and then came a brilliant fourth at Cheltenham.
Trainer Hanlon had been telling anyone who would listen that his star mare was a dead cert for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final, and so it proved.
Stalking the leaders throughout, the six-year-old passed Willie Mullins’ Gauloise at the final flight to seal a truly memorable first Grade One win for not only the underdog mare but also her ever-punchy trainer.
“I did [think she was a certainty],” Hanlon said.
“I thought that she couldn’t get beat. I knew she came home from Cheltenham very well and I thought that Henry’s [De Bromhead] horse wanted soft ground.
“It’s great. She’s as tough as nails.
“I was afraid of the ones who had ran at Cheltenham more than the ones that hadn’t. She was in great form, she’s tough, it’s great to have one like her.”
Even before today her connections had certainly made their money back, and some, on the bargain buy but a €59,000 payday sweetens the deal ever more so.
The daughter of Westerner’s rags to riches story now shows no signs of stopping and for her owners, from Ireland to Dubai, it is a day they will never forget.
“When she got into a bit of trouble I said a few prayers! Everyone wants to have one Grade One winner and for me to have one is great,” Hanlon added.
“It’s great for racing because anyone out there now can say ‘right, she’s a small priced filly, let’s get a syndicate together and go and have fun.’
“There’s two lads of the owners from Ireland and the rest are from Dubai, they’ve sat down today to have a meal.
“It’s great for Ireland to get to Dubai. There’s a lot of money in Dubai and it’s going to come back here.”
And day two of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival is one jockey Jody McGarvey is never likely to forget either.
Having won just one Grade One contest prior to today, like buses, two more came along at once as he first piloted Skyace to glory before also landing the Underwriting Exchange Gold Cup Novice Chase on Janidil.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” McGarvey said.
“Week in and week out when you’re working hard you want to be at these meetings and to ride in these races.
“To go and win two Grade Ones in a day — I’ve only ever ridden one Grade One (winner) in my whole career — and now I’m after riding two in one day, it’s unbelievable.
“Big thanks to Frank (Berry, racing manager) and JP (McManus, owner) for letting me step in to have these rides, I’m just very very grateful. I’m just happy to be here.
“They (opportunities) don’t come along too often and you have to take them with both hands. You don’t know where the next one is going to come from.
“I’ll make the most of this and keep kicking onward and upwards for the next day.”
That success was one of four for Mullins on the day – with El Barra winning the Maiden Hurdle, Echoes In Rain claiming the Novice Hurdle and Dark Raven taking the Bumper.
There were also victories for Jessica Harrington’s Jungle Junction and Ashdale Bob, and Philip Fenton’s Stand Off.