The aptly-named A Dream To Share made all of John
Gleeson’s wishes come true as the teenage jockey won the Champion Bumper in his
very first Cheltenham Festival ride, writes Paul Martin.
Gleeson had to take the week off school in swapping classrooms for Cleeve Hill but will return top of the class after timing his late charge to perfection in the day two finale.
The Champion Bumper is usually Willie Mullins’ domain – he has 12 wins in this race – but he had to settle for second on this occasion with favourite Fact To File, as the honours went to a man with even more experience than the King of Closutton.
John Kiely, 86, trained his first winner at Punchestown in 1976 but proved age is just a number with a success which marked a perfect blend of youth and experience.
“I can’t believe how smoothly it went, to be honest,” said Gleeson, 18. “Did that really happen?
“We set out to keep it simple. We thought the ground on the outside would be slightly better and it was so smooth, he did it so well.
“It’s very special, I ride the horse out before school every morning. We are a small team but we do very well and we try our best to get to the big stage. To win, I can’t believe it.”
Gleeson is the son of RTE Racing pundit Brian and enjoyed Dublin Racing Festival success on A Dream To Share in his mum Claire’s colours six weeks ago.
That triumph caught the eye of JP McManus, who has since purchased the horse, but Gleeson kept the ride and repaid that faith in some style.
“I’m very grateful to Mr McManus for allowing me to keep the ride and to have a Cheltenham Festival winner for John [Kiely], I can’t explain it,” he said.
“That man is so good for me, he keeps me so cool, there was no pressure. I’m very grateful.”
The mutual admiration shone through amid jubilant scenes in the parade ring as Kiely paid tribute to the young star who provided him with a Festival winner he was never expecting in his ninth decade – doing so with a line which neatly summarised the generation
“John works hard, he has some fitness gadgets and machines,” said Kiely, whose brother Paddy trained 1993 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Shuil Ar Aghaidh.
“He cycles, he runs and he’s prepared to put the work in. He has been with me for four years now and he’s been very capable all the way through.
“We had a good talk about how we would ride the race and we thought we’d follow Patrick [Mullins], who would be a good judge. That helped.
“JP [McManus] could have had any professional but it was very nice to stick with John. Hasn’t it worked out!”
The success concluded another dominant day for Irish trainers, who replicated Tuesday’s 5-2 scoreline to open up a lead of six overall over the home team.
Maskada contributed to that haul with victory in the Grand Annual, Darragh O’Keeffe steering home the 22/1 shot to join Gleeson in banking a first Festival winner and continuing a memorable week for Henry de Bromhead in the process.
“It’s an amazing place and it’s a privilege to come over with a few rides,” O’Keeffe said.
“I was touched off last year in the Coral Cup and touched off in the Paddy Power [Gold Cup Handicap Chase] as well on French Dynamite. I was starting to get nightmares about this place!
“I’m delighted to ride a winner for Henry and Heather. They had a great day here yesterday and I’m delighted to add another one to the board for them.
“He is a fantastic trainer, he gave me my first Grade 1 winner and plenty of other high-profile rides. He has been marvellous for me.”