Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

UP-AND-COMING rider Aidan Kelly enjoyed the biggest success of his fledgling career as he delivered a never-say-die ride to land the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Iroko in the colours of J.P. McManus.

The 21-year-old rider, a native of Monasterevin, had finished second on his first mount at Cheltenham when Salvador Ziggy was runner-up in the Pertemps Final, but he managed to go one better in the final race of the 2023 Festival aboard the rapidly-improving 6/1 winner.

Iroko will go down in the history books as the first Cheltenham Festival winner to represent an official training partnership, scoring here for Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero.

It had looked as though Jack and Paul Gilligan were poised to strike with 28/1 shot Buddy One, but hanging to the left did their chances no favours as Iroko came with a wet sail to win from an unpromising position, having traded as big as 399/1 in the in-running markets.

Kelly, who is enjoying his best season on home soil as a 7lb claimer, said: “It’s my first time ever being here and I’ve been taking it all in. To finish second on Thursday was great but to have a winner tops it all. It’s amazing, I can’t believe it.

Dream result

“It’s every jockey’s dream to ride a winner here. This is my 18th winner and one I won’t forget. I’m in my fifth or sixth season riding and I’m delighted that things are seeming to go well.”

On how the 21-runner affair unfolded, Kelly explained:“There was a strong gallop and I had to nudge him along from down the back. I was struggling a small bit but I’d say he’s an out-and-out stayer. Beforehand I spoke to Jonjo O’Neill, who won on him two starts ago, and he told me that this was a pretty slow horse but that he should stay well and handle the hill. Thankfully he did. As soon as the gap came he quickened up well.”

McManus recorded a 1-2 in the concluding contest thanks to a fine second from the Nicky Henderson-trained No Ordinary Joe, edging out Buddy One. Imagine fared best of Gordon Elliott’s six runners when just touched off for fourth by Might I.