Tag Archive for: Tony Martin

Jubilant scenes at Epsom as teenager Coonan powers to victory with Belgoprince

Tony Martin’s runners are always feared when making trips to England and his Belgoprince produced a devastating display in Epsom’s Betfred Nifty Fifty Amateurs’ Derby Handicap to enhance that reputation as jockey Billy Coonan enjoyed his biggest day in the saddle.

It was not a shock that one of the visitors from Ireland took home the prestigious first prize, but many expected the winner to be the John and Thomas Kiely-trained Liberated Light who was sent off the 11-4 favourite in the hands Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey John Gleeson.

However, despite travelling with supreme confidence into the home straight, Gleeson and his mount had no answer to Belgoprince who forced his way to the front in the hands of 19-year-old Coonan at the two-furlong pole and then surged clear to register an emphatic 11-length success over his fellow Irish raider at odds of 12-1.

Coonan said: “It is surreal. I came over from Ireland this morning. Tony rang me on Saturday morning saying ‘I’ve got a ride for you’. It is just great. We thought we had a bit of a chance, but I didn’t think it would be that easy.

“I wanted to get the rail, but I was one off the rail. Hitting the two (furlong pole) he was travelling so well I went to the lead. He just hit the front running so I let him go and he got the job done.

“It is massive. I’ve only ever had one winner before, so it is extra special to get one here. It means a lot.”

A Derby winner for Billy Coonan at Epsom
A Derby winner for Billy Coonan at Epsom (PA)

While Coonan’s impending university studies will take over from his duties in the saddle, he will try to keep his hand in with his riding.

Coonan added: “I had my first ride last year at the Galway Festival and I’ve been in with Tony Martin most days of the week. I’m just delighted just to get a winner for him.

“I live over in Maynooth in County Kildare and I’m going to university in September. I’m going to study commerce at the University of Galway so it will be back to the books, but I will try to ride at the same time.”

Adam West was victorious on home turf, as he still enjoys the aftermath of Live in The Dream’s fairytale Nunthorpe victory.

Satono Japan was the horse in question this time, taking the Churchill Retirement Living Handicap at 12-1 under Callum Shepherd.

The locally-based trainer said: “It’s been a little labour of love for my assistant and co-owner Tom Cusden. He stuck his hand up in the ring, spent the money and he’s been a bit of a project ever since then.

“He’s a quirky character, but I think we do well with horses who need some extra attention. We sent him hurdling to make him think about racing a little bit and it worked wonders.

“He’s now stuck his nose in front because he doesn’t want to go back to Worcester. He’s one of the most talented horses I’ve seen, but it’s just one of the things we’ve got to eke out of him is to make him want to do it.

“It’s all about confidence and he’s dropped down in grade. He’s been able to get a bit of confidence.”

Martin keeping an open mind on Good Time Jonny plans

Tony Martin will wait before making plans for Good Time Jonny on the back of his scintillating victory in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The eight-year-old gave the trainer a memorable success in the three-mile Grade Three event, coming from last to first under 5lb claimer Liam McKenna.

The manner of victory was all the more remarkable, as the rider had to overcome plenty of trouble in running.

“It was an absolutely brilliant ride for a lad claiming 5lb, but then Liam is a good rider,” said Martin.

“If the horse is not travelling or not jumping, or you’re not getting a clear run, there is just no point forcing them, they won’t get home.

“He didn’t have the nicest of runs through the race. The nerve to sit and the patience he showed, it reminded me of Ruby Walsh or Davy Russell.

“He was very similar to Ruby. When the race didn’t work out, he had the patience and the brilliance to sit and let the race come to him, and not chase it.”

The Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree is among the future options being pondered, along with targets closer to home.

“He’s good, so we will just see how we are as to where we go, whether it is Liverpool, Fairyhouse or Punchestown,” added Martin.

“He will go one way or the other. I’ve been very happy with him. We’ll give him a week before making a plan.

“The horses tell us themselves. We can make a plan if we have enough time. We will see how the race affects him. All the options are there.

“We would like to get two more rolls at the dice before we let him off, but if we get one where he can show his true colours, it would be far better for him that he could do himself justice, rather than try to squeeze in two where we’d rush him.”

Tony Martin reminding everyone he is still a force
Tony Martin reminding everyone he is still a force (PA)

Martin admits he has had a few lean years, but a Cheltenham winner has certainly buoyed the yard.

“It’s hard,” said Martin. “We had bad times for a few years and were out of the place we were. If you are not keeping the ship sailing, you are not attracting owners.

“There are a few lads on side at the moment, a brilliant man gave me an order for two nice horses the other day.

“Any Cheltenham winner ranks high. It’s like when you are playing golf at the Masters, or soccer in the European Cup, Cheltenham is really the be-all and end-all in National Hunt racing, similar to Royal Ascot or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the Flat. Of course you rank it highly.”

Good Time again for Tony Martin at Cheltenham

It was a case of mission complete in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle as Good Time Jonny stormed to Cheltenham Festival success.

Trained to perfection by Tony Martin, he qualified for the big race by finishing third to Maxxum at Leopardstown over Christmas, before tuning-up for his Prestbury Park assignment over an inadequate two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival.

The money had been coming for the eight-year-old building up to the meeting and he was sent off at 9-1 as the tapes went up.

Given a brave steer by Liam McKenna up the inner, Good Time Jonny was out the back as the field headed for home. But his young rider held his nerve to pounce late and deliver his mount with precision, returning a three-and-a-quarter-length winning verdict.

It was a fitting reappearance in the Festival winner’s enclosure for Martin, who has proved synonymous with handicap success in the past and was securing his seventh success at the four-day showpiece.

Martin was full of praise for his rider, saying: “He was last at the top of the hill but had the patience to wait, and it worked out well.

“The horse had been coming on real well since Leopardstown and this is great for Liam.

“When they turned in and started to pick up I knew he would win. Liam never chased him.

“This man has shown when he gets the rub of the green he’s as good as anyone. He hasn’t always enjoyed the breaks you hope for, but when I want to claim I wouldn’t look past him.”

McKenna said: “It’s great for the boys that own him, there’ll be plenty of celebrations from them. They’re great men. It’s great to get these opportunities on a big day like this.

“I got there late enough but that wasn’t my plan, Tony said to get there late and about 10 strides from the line I knew I had it. Just to hear that crowd is different.”

There was further success for the Irish raiders when Seddon gave John McConnell his first Festival winner in the Magners Plate Handicap Chase.

Seddon and Ben Harvey on the way to victory
Seddon and Ben Harvey on the way to victory (Tim Goode/PA)

It was also a first winner at the big meeting for Ben Harvey, who never missed a beat aboard the 10-year-old – bringing him home ahead of Richard Hobson’s Fugitif to strike at 20-1.

McConnell said: “I don’t know what to say. He’s the horse of a lifetime. Top jockey, top worker rider, I don’t do anything. I’m just a chancer, that’s all I am. He’s some horse, and the most beautiful, kindest horse you can ever imagine as well.

“He’s just a happy horse. He loves being a racehorse, people talk about welfare and this is a horse that just loves being a racehorse. He would lay down for you, he’s an amazing horse. With Ben on board it was like robbing 5lb, it’s unbelievable.”

Sam Curling’s Angels Dawn ensured a clean sweep of the St Patrick’s Thursday handicaps went to Ireland when holding off Stumptown to claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase by a neck.

Angels Dawn and P A King coming home to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
Angels Dawn and P A King coming home to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse (David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA)

The eight-year-old unseated her rider when sent off favourite for Punchestown’s Grand National Trial last month, but bounced back in style here, travelling with real menace in the hands of Patrick King and showing plenty of guts when challenged by Gavin Cromwell’s 7-2 favourite in the closing stages.

Curling said: “That was brilliant – I’m delighted.

“She was unlucky the last day in Punchestown and she’s always promised a lot. 

“We’re only a small team and only have about six horses for the track. We have maybe 70 point-to-pointers and mainly buy and sell horses. We sold Marine Nationale, so it was special to see him here earlier in the week. That’s our game. 

“This mare jumps well and loves the bit of extra distance and Pat gave her a very cool ride. 

“When the rain came I was very hopeful. If she’d won the last day she would have gone up in the weights, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. 

“She’s in the Irish National, but she probably wouldn’t get into that. I hadn’t really looked beyond today, to be honest.”

King said: “It’s unbelievable, I didn’t think I’d ever have this feeling, it’s surreal, it’s my first ride at the Festival. I’ve had a winner at the October meeting but to ride this for Sam, who has been a big part of my career, I’m delighted.

“I was nearly at the end of riding as things had gone very quiet for me but I joined Sam and since then I’m back, he’s been a big part.

“I’ve known Sam a long time and he told me if I joined him there’d be chances for him and I’ve never looked back.

“I was in front far too soon, I wasn’t supposed to be in front before the last but I thought from a long way out I was going very well and thankfully it worked out.”