LIAM Burke became the oldest person to ride a winner in Ireland for 100 years at the age of 66 at Limerick on Sunday, when partnering his own Teuchters Glory to win the concluding Good Luck To Irish At Cheltenham Bumper.
The Galway Plate-winning trainer and father of leading jockey Jonathan Burke hung up his riding boots in the last millennium but, following two knee replacements and after “taking a mad notion”, made a surprise return to the saddle, aged 64, in July 2021.
Having his first ride in three months on William MacDonald’s well-backed, keen-going Teuchters Glory (9/2), Burke took the lead with six furlongs to race on the seven-year-old who galloped relentlessly to defeat Lucky Lyreen by five lengths.
There was a small crowd present for the famous win but Burke received a hero’s welcome and was applauded to the enclosure by professional jockeys, appreciative of the fact they weren’t alive for his previous racecourse winner in June 1988.
Burke’s achievement had been bettered just once in Irish racing history, by 71-year-old Harry Beasley’s win at Punchestown in 1923.
The Cork native reflected: “That was mighty! I lost weight and it was a mad notion I took to come back.
“My knees gave me trouble all along but I got both replaced, although it took me ages to get back right. I ride out four or five horses every day and was 66 last Monday.
“I previously rode 38 point-to-point winners and 17 on the racecourse and actually lost my 7lb and 5lb claims in the past, before the numbers went back up. My last point-to-point winners were in 1991.”
Burke, who attended Cheltenham on Tuesday, added:”Teuchters Glory is a fair horse but has been hard to keep right. We decided to come back for a bumper as I wanted to keep him as a novice for next season.
“This is very high on my career achievements and is up there with winning the Galway Plate. Everyone thinks I’m mad but you have to be mad to do this job! I’ll probably keep going.”
Merry Moves was the biggest-priced winner of the day at 22/1, landing the Cheltenham Live On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle for trainer Grainne O’Connor and jockey Ben Harvey.
The successful trainer’s husband Paurick O’Connor reported: “That’s Ben’s first time riding for me - he was a top class point-to-point rider and I didn’t have to give him instructions. I left it to him as he is the professional.
“She had won a point-to-point and I’m delighted for her owner Leonard MacMahon who also bred her.”
THE all-conquering champion trainer Willie Mullins failed to beat young Liam Burke with two bumper runners but had earlier bagged the featured Grade 3 Shannon Spray Mares’ Novice Hurdle with Eabha Grace (12/1).
Winning jockey Conor McNamara improved the six-year-old to lead jumping the second-last and from there, stayed on well to beat stablemate Hauturiere.
McNamara reported: “John Battersby (winning owner) sponsors me and I’m very appreciative of both him and Mr. Mullins for giving me the chance today.
“Her maiden win was very good but she didn’t build on that last time when she was struck into. She came back to form today and loved that bit of soft ground. She was a bit lacklustre but every time I wanted her, she picked up again.”
Racing began with a successful gamble in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Hurdle as Mullins’ one-time assistant turned-trainer James Nash scored with wide-margin winner Your Honor, for owner Michael O’Flynn.
Backed from 6/1 in the morning before returning the heavily-supported 15/8 second-favourite, the son of Lawman made all under Gavin Brouder, to beat Bringbackmemories by 28 lengths.
Nash reported: “We’ve had a few juveniles which have won and I thought this lad could be better.
“I ran him the fourth-day over hurdles at Fairyhouse to give him one chance of qualifying for the Boodles (at Cheltenham) but he disappointed on the day. However that race was against older horses and I saw after the race that it was 20 seconds faster than the four-year-olds-only race.
“We’ve freshened him up since and while today’s ground is horrible and dead ground, he just seems to manage it and jumped super. He was getting weight so the only thing to do was to make the running.
“He could go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown and we’re hoping he could be a graded horse.”
MADE In The Woods (5/2f) was another all-the-way winner, landing the Agritech Handicap Chase for trainer Norman Lee, jockey Gary Noonan and the Jackpot Racing Syndicate.
Made In the Woods was clear for most and held on to beat Happy Dreams by two and a quarter lengths.
“It was a great ride by Gary, a super super ride and he steadied him at the last couple when he needed to, rather than knock the horse,” Lee said.
“He is a lovely horse for soft ground and three miles. He might go back over hurdles now and is belonged to great owners who will enjoy today after his four seconds. There are more days in him but at his own grade.”
Trainer Charles Byrnes registered a timely winner, following his enforced withdrawal of Cheltenham fancy Shoot First, with his J.P. McManus-owned, Luke Dempsey-partnered All Those Years (5/2) in the Book Online Beginners Chase.
Regarding Shoot First, Byrnes, antepost favourite for the Pertemps Final, Byrnes said “He gave himself a bang, we aren’t fully sure how it happened and we picked it up at lunchtime yesterday. It’s very disappointing.”
On this winner, he added: “Six-runner beginners’ chases don’t happen too often nowadays and it looked a nice opportunity as there were three horses with more or less the same ratings.
“That’s his level but he’s not a bad horse and jumps really well. Chasing might improve him and he won’t run during the summer as he does handle the soft.”
Fortunefavorsdbold survived a stewards’ inquiry before winning the Cheltenham Live On Racing TV Maiden Hurdle, scoring for jockey Sean Flanagan, trainer Paul Nolan and owner Lynne Maclennan.
The winner had jumped left at the last, bumping runner-up Desert Heather, but held on for a half-length win.
Flanagan said: “I’ve gone a bit left jumping the last, where I was long and low, but I’ve won with plenty in hand.
“I jumped quite well and was always trying to get as much cover as I could as Paul and James (Nolan) were anxious that I got a lead. Going as slow as we did probably helped.”