Patrick Mullins realised his long-held ambition as he steered Echoes In Rain to a convincing victory in the Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap, the feature event on the first day of the Galway Festival.
Mullins has won plenty of big races, counting a clutch of Grade One successes on his CV, but he had yet to land a race that is viewed as one of the highlights of the amateur season.
However, the rider righted that statistic in style as Echoes In Rain, trained by his father Willie, was tanking along a fair way out and despite getting a bump before turning into the straight, she was in a perfect position to challenge in the two-mile-one-furlong contest.
Mullins had to get serious on the 11-4 favourite in the closing stages, but she found plenty for pressure to triumph by a length and a half from stablemate Maze Runner – with Mullins punching the air passing the post. Dutch Schultz was third with another Mullins inmate Lot Of Joy – a Swedish St Leger winner – making eyecatching ground to finish fourth.
The winning rider said: “Sixteenth time lucky! It’s the amateur Derby and my father won it on Pargan, for my grandfather.
“There’s plenty more (races for me to win) – there’s the Foxhunters’ in Aintree, there’s the Kim Muir in Cheltenham, so there’s more to do. And a Galway Plate wouldn’t go astray, but it won’t be this year, unfortunately.
“We took the hood off her today, and she got very relaxed. I thought, going down to the start, that she was going to be too keen. She was quite buzzed up but we went a good gallop. She got a little bit keen and I actually let her slide on a bit rather than taking her back, and she settled again, and I got a lovely clear run.”
Willie Mullins was thrilled to see his son prevail, although he was also cheering on the second.
He explained: “I wasn’t sure which horse to shout for as my wife owns the second! Anyhow, I’m delighted he won it and delighted for the owners in Barnane Stud in Templemore, who have a very good flat enterprise.
“She is high quality, is a little temperamental in her races but Patrick said they went fast enough to get her settled. He stayed wide and out of trouble.
“Maze Runner ran a cracker and I’m delighted for Elliot Ohgren, a top-class Swedish amateur, who has been with us for a year.”
Royal Eagle (18-1) was a surprise winner of the opening Galmont.com & Galwaybayhotel.com Novice Hurdle for Gordon Elliott and Jordan Gainford.
HMS Seahorse was sent off the 1-2 favourite for the opening event of the fixture, but he had no answer to the winner’s late thrust, eventually coming home third.
Elliott said: “She had a low weight and I thought she’d run all right as she was getting a stone off the favourite and had a good run at Dundalk the last day. She liked the ground and jumped well.
“She will win on the flat and will mix between hurdles and the flat and we’ll think about the Lartigue Hurdle (Listowel in September) for her.”
Darkened (12-1) struck gold for trainer-rider Denis Hogan in the Easyfix Handicap Hurdle, fending off Listentillitellyea by a nose to set up a potential quick reappearance later in the week.
Hogan said: “When we bought him we were very disappointed with him as he didn’t take to jumping, but we ride him on the outside as he loves a bit of space. I rode him a canter this morning going steady and he jinked and jammed on, which confirmed that I should keep him away from horses.
“I can’t knock him this year as he hasn’t been out of the first three most days and he could run over a mile and a half later in the week.”
Jessica Harrington is eyeing Group race company for Pivotal Trigger (2-1) later in the year after he got off the mark in the Claregalwayhotel.ie Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden.
Shane Foley’s mount had to dig deep to hold off the persistent challenge of 8-11 favourite Tiverton, but he was just too strong at the end of the seven-furlong affair, coming home a length and a half clear.
She said: “The plan was to jump out and make the running and he got it fairly easy in front. We knew he would stay and knew he would love that ease in the ground.
“He (Foley) said he got going early but coming around the corner, looked around and is still learning. He probably even needs a mile and a quarter now and will stay well and is out of a mare who stayed well.
“He might be a horse for the Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown at the end of the year.”
Harrington and Foley made it a treble on the night with Dairerin (9-2) in the Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap and Irish Lullaby (13-2) in the Eventus Handicap.