John ‘Shark’ Hanlon picked up his second Galway Festival feature winner
of the week as Hallowed Star cruised to victory in the BoyleSports Handicap
Hurdle, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.
With Rachael Blackmore riding prominently to keep the impressive seven-year-old out of trouble, he moved away from the chasing pack with ease, as his trainer followed up from Hewick’s Galway Plate win on Wednesday in fine style.
Happy Jacky was the best of the rest but Hallowed Star never looked like losing once he got his nose in front and handled the tricky ground better than the rest.
La Prima Donna was the big hope of Willie Mullins’ four runners and the choice of Paul Townend, but was brought down three from home.
Hanlon, sounding slightly hoarse after the celebrations from Wednesday’s Plate victory, was delighted with his yard’s latest star.
“It was great,” said the winning trainer. “He is a right old horse but I didn’t think he’d do what he has done.
“He’d never ran this trip before, but I thought he’d stay and told her (Blackmore) that he’d stay, so ride him to stay. Rachael was super.
“My voice is just about coming back! It is just great to get two (winners) here.
“I always say if you get one in Galway you’re flying, but to get two is a bonus.
“It means so much. This a great week for the supporters, the other day with Hewick, the crowds were five deep all around, roaring and shouting him the whole way up.
“It’s unreal. It’s a tough time for small trainers and we need that support.
“The whole week the atmosphere from the people has been great.”
In the Ardilaun Hotel Handicap, Excuzio Joe picked up a third winner of the week for both trainer Matthew Smith and jockey Declan McDonogh, in tough conditions.
The favourite managed to hold off a late charge from both Zephron and Mary Salome, on what was her second run of the week at Ballybrit, following a fourth place finish on Tuesday evening.
Smith was delighted to maintain his impressive record at the course and said the poor conditions suited his winning mare.
“You would have fancied her today,” he said. “She won here on heavy ground two years ago, so we knew it would be ideal for her.
“She was a little unlucky here on Tuesday night, so it is brilliant.
“She had a good draw and Declan made sure she was handy. We’re over the moon with a third winner, there is nowhere else like it.”
Winning jockey McDonogh added: “She travelled well on Tuesday but didn’t get the luck. It’s a long way to home when it is heavy.
“I thought she over-raced a little bit in the early stages, but Matthew’s horses are flying.”
In day six’s opening race, Emmett Mullins got his second winner of the festival when Merlin Giant produced a strong jumping performance to move away from joint-favourite Hubrisko, in the BoyleSports-sponsored Maiden Hurdle.