Festival dream comes true for novice rider Shortall
Shane Shortall stole the show at Ballybrit yesterday with a brilliantly measured front-running steer to plunder a famous Tote Galway Plate victory on Noel Meade's 14/1 shot Road To Riches.
The emphatic 11-length triumph completed a 74/1 double on an unforgettable day for the 22-year-old rider.
After Shortall had earlier conspired to thwart the Tony McCoy-ridden Golden Ticket on his boss Tony Martin's Greatness (4/1 favourite) in wildly contrasting last-gasp fashion, Martin stated in no uncertain terms that he would make as much use as possible of his seven-pound claim.
"He won't have it for long, that's for sure," Martin declared, "because he is serious value for it."
Those words would prove quite prophetic.
Shortall eased Road To Riches to the front when he had settled into a rhythm after the third fence, and from there he let him run and jump in his hands.
Lord Ben kept close tabs on the partnership as the remainder of the field raced at a slight remove in behind, but Shortall judged things to a nicety.
He dictated the fractions and was still sitting pretty as the rest tried desperately to peg him back on the long climb home up the hill.
It was a futile task. Road To Riches was not for catching, stamping his class all over the €200,000 feature with a barnstorming rout.
Burn And Turn came out of the pack to be a clear second, with Balnaslow pipping Spring Heeled for third on the line.
This, though, was all about one horse.
Meade produced Road To Riches in mint condition on his first start since May, and the success completed the full set of wins for the former champion trainer in the festival's four feature events.
"I am absolutely thrilled," the Co Meath handler beamed.
"To win the Plate was something I always wanted to do.
"He likes to be fresh, so we gave him a little break. He went a fair gallop, but he jumped so well he gave himself a chance – every fence was a help."
It was Shortall's first outing for Meade. The luckless Ger Fox was due to ride until he broke his collarbone last week.
Of course, it's one thing to get the opportunity, quite another to take it.
"It is tough on Ger, but that's racing, I suppose," Meade said.
"Willie Mullins watched the race behind me and clapped me on the back.
"At that stage I was wondering if I had I left the lead cloth off my fellow he came up the hill so easily!" he added.
Shortall is a native of Moate, so there was a two-pronged Co Westmeath angle to the victory, as the winner is owned by Michael O'Leary's Mullingar-based Gigginstown operation.
It also constituted a homecoming of sorts, as Road To Riches won his point-to-point for Athenry's Martin Cullinane.
"Words can't describe it," Shortall said.
"As a kid coming to Galway watching all the big boys, you dream of this kind of thing. I can't believe it."
In an incident-packed edition that saw Shanpallas run out through a wing at the third fence, the 8/1 joint-favourite Alderwood – ridden by Ulster great McCoy – was brought down by Terminal at the sixth, while Kid Cassidy suffered a fatal fall at the fourth.
On a good day for talented young claimers, Johnny Burke, whose father Liam won the Plate with Sir Frederick in 2007, got Liz Doyle's Cacheofgold (12/1) home with a late surge in the mares handicap hurdle.
"She got a beautiful, beautiful ride," Doyle said of Burke's fine effort.
All of 21 years after his father Adrian steered Dermot Weld's General Idea to victory in the Plate, 16-year-old Finny Maguire partnered his first Ballybrit winner for the Rosewell House wizard on the odds-on Whitey O'Gwaun in the qualified riders maiden.
Riding just his second winner, Maguire calmly negotiated his way inside Break My Mind when that one ran off the bend turning away from the stands.
Thereafter, he cruised to a facile triumph on the Sheikh Mohammed-owned grey.
"It's unbelievable," Maguire said echoing Shortall, "the stuff of dreams."
His father and mother Sabrina, a sister of Galway Hurdle hero Mick Winters, bore broad beams in the winner's circle.
Eddie Lynam's daughter Sarah, who suffered a nasty fall after being thrown into a fence when Break My Mind ran out, was last night reported to be recovering well in hospital after being briefly knocked out.
In the mile handicap, local handler Iggy Madden landed a popular touch with Cairdiuil, which prevailed under Wayne Lordan after being backed from 25/1 in to 9/1. Brooch won the concluding Irish Racing Maiden under Pat Smullen.