Tudor City land remarkable second Galway Hurdle of their career

Winning a Guinness Galway Hurdle is every jockey’s dream, but to do so in your first race of the season after returning from injury seems beyond the realm of possibility. Not so Liam McKenna, who did just that aboard Tudor City, a horse winning the race for the second time and giving trainer Tony Martin his fourth victory in the last nine races of the race.

McKenna was coming back from a broken collarbone suffered at the last close of the Irish Grand National in April. If that wasn’t enough, at ten years old, time was not on the horse’s side either and history was against him as he tried to become the first of his age to win the race since 1947.

But few know and execute this track as well as Tudor City, and it was helped by an ultra-confident ride from McKenna.

Able to sit behind the pace and along the rails for much of the race, the veteran looked just as sharp as he did when he won a handicap here at the age of three years in 2015 and when he won this race in 2019.

McKenna may have lacked practice for the match, but he looked like a man who spent every day returning to the winner’s crease. Happy to bide his time, he encouraged his mount to come a little closer to the descent, and they jumped second to last with the momentum to take third place.

As they emerged from the dive and straightened up for the final flight, McKenna still had enough horsepower to go on the outside and complete his challenge. Last year’s fourth Jesse Evans led last but Tudor City picked up under a strong push to stick him close to home for a three-game win.

Prairie Dancer, who was seventh in an obstacle listed here on Tuesday, had tried to do the whole race and continued valiantly to take third place, ahead of Glan and Heia.

“We were really hoping for a good race and we would have been disappointed if he wasn’t in the four,” said Martin, who is enjoying a revival after a few lean years by his own standards.

“He won very well at Punchestown and had a great preparation at the Curragh a month ago. Going around the ring (before the race) you could see he was warming up, bubbling, unhealthy. Whether he was good enough or not, I wasn’t sure, but luckily he was.

“Days like today, that’s what it’s all about. It would be nice to have some nice and good horses, and luckily we could get some back. We’ve been short of quality horses for the past few years, and things weren’t going very well, but I hope they’re starting to pick up a bit and it’s getting better and better. Martin also praised McKenna.

“He’s a very good driver. He was very good on Golden Spear at Leopardstown in February and every ride he did for me he always did what was asked of him. They may not have won, but he still gave them great laps. He’s a very capable guy, and I think he was excellent. It would be a race that Ruby would be proud of. The winning colors, from owner John Breslin, are familiar to all racing fans, especially at this site and at Listowel, the two big meetings Martin has targeted for the owner. The victory was the third Galway Hurdle victory for Breslin, also achieved with Quick Jack in 2015.

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