Patrick and Willie Mullins continued their dominance
of the Guinness Galway Hurdle with a third victory in four years as Saldier
defied top weight to power to victory at Ballybrit, writes Paul Martin.
Mullins Jnr made history in the process, becoming the first jockey since Jonjo O’Neill to win three Galway Hurdles – a remarkable achievement for an amateur.
For his father, this was the second landmark success in as many days as he added the Hurdle to Wednesday’s Plate to complete an iconic Galway Festival double.
It took a flying finish for Saldier to follow in the footsteps of Sharjah and Aramon and keep the Hurdle honours in the family.
The seven-year-old went over the last narrowly behind Cape Gentleman only to power past the favourite inside the final 200 yards, ultimately finishing two lengths clear of British challenger Milkwood.
“He was in that zone and things went right when we needed them to,” said Patrick Mullins.
“I thought he had a squeak, I thought he’d be in the first four. Giving 10lbs or more to everything bar one, I thought that would catch him out, but it’s great to win.
“I never thought I’d ever get to ride in one [Galway Hurdle]. I remember seeing Black Queen win it and it was always a race I wanted to win, so [to win three] is something I’m very proud of.
“The Galway Hurdle has its own magic. It’s a special race and to be associated with it like this is something beyond I could have ever imagined.”
Saldier has top-class pedigree as a dual Group 1 winner, both of which came at Punchestown, but his trainer identified a fall at Naas, which took place in November 2018 between those two triumphs, as a knock to his confidence.
Now a picture of health, he has shown just what he is capable of on the big stage once more to leave Mullins bursting with pride on multiple fronts.
“For an amateur to do that, three Galway Hurdles – I’m very proud of him,” he said of his son’s achievement.
“He thinks it all out himself, he tells me exactly what he’s going to do. He got into traffic problems but all he needed was a gap, which eventually came – and he took it.
On Saldier’s recovery, he added: “Virginie Bascop has been riding him all year to keep him sound, and he’s a very hard horse to keep sound.
“He had a very bad fall in Naas as a four-year-old and broke the side of his nostril and cheekbone. It has taken him all these years to get the confidence to come back to gallop and jump like that.
“He has a bit of class. We might go back on the flat with him now.”
The same duo were back in the winners’ enclosure an hour after their Hurdle triumph as MC Muldoon held off the strong challenge of Enniskerry to claim the Novice Hurdle after a stewards’ enquiry following the neck-and-neck battle up the hill.
It was Willie Mullins’ fourth success of the night following earlier victories for Farout in the Novice Hurdle, with Brian Hayes the winning jockey in the opening race of the evening, and Fan de Blues, who stayed on superbly for Paul Townend to surge
past Gin on Lime and Bold Enough after the final fence in the Rockshore Novice Steeplechase.
And the Mullins pair were not the only father-son pair to enjoy success on day four of the Festival as Luke Dempsey produced a fine ride on Clonbury Bridge in the Arthur Guinness Handicap Hurdle to delight trainer Philip.
Elsewhere, Macgiloney won a thrilling Guinness 0.0% Handicap Hurdle by a neck for Denis Hogan and the evening was concluded by a popular winner, with Noel McParlan steering Mr Saxobeat to success on the flat.