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Swamp makes splash as Festival gets off to flyer

By Ron McKnight

Swamp Fox was always in the hunt and triumphed in the Galway Festival's opening night feature, the Connacht Hotel Handicap, for trainer Joe Murphy and rider Barry Browne.

Banbridge jockey Steven Clements claimed the €80,000 first night feature - which is for amateur riders - in 2013 and 2014 but had to settle for second last night on Ted Veale, trained by Tony Martin.

And although Swamp Fox, at 16-1, was a big-priced winner, it was put in the shade by last night's 200-1 winner at Wolverhampton, Dandy Flame's victory in the 5f juvenile maiden the joint second longest-priced winner in the history of British racing.

Swamp Fox's jockey Browne, from Donadea, County Kildare, said: "I can't thank Garry Cribbin (jockeys' agent) enough for getting the ride and losing 6lb to make the weight was definitely well worthwhile.

"It's unbelievable - I've been professional in England in the past and it's in my head to turn back again.

"I've 13 winners left to lose my 7lb claim."

Murphy was proud to have executed a long-term ambition.

"This was the plan," said the County Tipperary handler.

"We had him in an amateur flat race at Leopardstown and we thought he would go well there and that would put him right for here.

"Then we went to Ballinrobe and the handicapper gave us 1lb.

"One thing about him is he will travel, he will finish and he's a lazy horse.

"I have always said there is a big race in this horse and he is a lovely horse to have.

"To win an amateur race here and to have a big race in Galway just makes life worth living!

"We were very lucky to get the rider as it was in the last moment. I did a bit of research and this rider was recommended to me.

Galway king Dermot Weld will look to step Right Honourable (5-4 favourite) up in grade after he stayed on strongly to take the EBF Maiden.

Weld said: "I had a concern as I was held up with him for a few days, so even more credit to the horse.

"He's a nice horse and I'll look for a Group or Listed race for him next over seven furlongs to a mile.

"He'll progress as the year goes on and, ground-wise, he's adaptable."

Muthaza had earlier underlined her potential Cheltenham Festival credentials with a clean-cut success in the novice hurdle.

Trainer Willie Mullins said: "She likes good ground. I'm going to keep going with her now.

"We'll try and get what we can and give her a little break and bring her back and prepare her for Cheltenham -­­­ hopefully for the mares' novice hurdle."

Joseph O'Brien claimed a first Galway victory as a trainer when Motherland emerged an impressive 17-length winner of the Baliyka Eventus Handicap under brother Donnacha O'Brien.

The rookie handler said: "He could be (a stakes horse). It's nice to get one on the board."

Belfast Telegraph


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