Guinness Galway Hurdle

SOMEHOW and from somewhere Tudor City rolled back the years and defied the history books to reclaim his Galway Hurdle crown and provide 7lb claimer Liam McKenna with a scarcely credible return to the saddle on a day that trainer Tony Martin will surely cherish forever.

In Europe’s richest handicap hurdle, Martin displayed no small amount of faith in Liam McKenna by entrusting him with the mount on the John Breslin-owned 2019 winner.

Incredibly this was McKenna’s first ride since he broke his collarbone in the Irish Grand National and this race was providing him with his first success since April. He displayed the sort of poise and panache that would have befitted the luminaries of his profession.

Sweet success

For Martin this was surely one of his sweetest big-race successes. After Tudor City won this race in 2019 the trainer has endured some fallow times and his seasonal tally dropped to two winners during the 2020/21 season. There were definite signs of resurgence for the yard last season and, on one of the biggest stages of all, the trainer showed what he can do in producing Tudor City in the form of his life.

The oldest winner of this race since the 1940s, the first horse to win this race twice since Pinch Hitter in 1982 and 1983 and only the second to win back his Galway Hurdle crown, Tudor City was making his ninth appearance at this meeting. His first appearance here came all the way back in 2015 when he won a mile handicap under Fran Berry.

Inner course

In the race, Liam McKenna took his chances with a patient ride down the inner. He was forced to come off the rail after three out but then got back to the inside and it was notable how well he was going on the approach to two out.

At this point the reserve Prairie Dancer was still showing in front and the well fancied Jesse Evans was ideally placed just a couple of lengths back in second.

Tudor City still had any amount to give and as the runners turned for home, McKenna brought him off the rail to deliver a telling challenge. Jesse Evans led over the last but on the run-in was picked off by Tudor City who carried the day by three-quarters of a length. Prairie Dancer ran a splendid race to take third ahead of another long-shot, Glan, while the favourite, Adamantly Chosen, finished well down the field.


“It’s absolutely brilliant and our jockey was tremendous. I’m delighted for John and Debbie (Breslin). John was one of my father’s best friends and one of my best friends. We go back 40 years to when I was a nipper and he’s still looking after me now,” said a thrilled Tony Martin.

“We joined up in 2000. At that time John only came home for Galway and Leopardstown so you’d try and have the horses for those meetings. He’s been home for the last couple of years and it makes it a little easier as we can go wherever we have to go with them but the likes of this race is always a target.

“You could see a while ago that the horse was beginning to come to himself. He was coming in his coat, his skin, and you could see he was in rude health. We tried to have him as good as we could for today and it showed beforehand in the ring. He was mad alive and bold and active. He was getting a little warm which was a great sign and luckily enough he delivered.

“He seems to peak this time of year and his best runs are here. He handles the place and likes it obviously.

“It was an incredible ride, a ride Ruby Walsh would have been proud of. We had a good chat about it on Sunday and Monday when we decided he would ride him and everything went so right for him.

“Liam gave him a cool patient ride and was excellent on him. I was afraid the pace they went that the horse wouldn’t get home from the last but fortunately enough he did.

“This is a very competitive game but we are fortunate that we have a few good men behind us and if we get the horses we can do the job.”

Tyrone jockey

This success marked an incredible return to the saddle for Tyrone-born jockey Liam McKenna (27).

“I was never really happy during the race,” he said. “The plan going out was to sit second or third but he never travelled and only started to travel coming to the last which he winged and then picked up well.

“There is no better man to train a Galway Hurdle winner than Tony Martin. I wouldn’t be someone that’s in demand so to ride a Galway Hurdle winner is unbelievable.”