GBI RACING

City Island keeps Ballymore in the family

City Island jumps the last ahead of Champ

City Island provided the Mulryan family with a famous success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Sean Mulryan founded the Ballymore Properties Group, and City Island runs in the colours of his wife, Bernadette.

The six-year-old has been brought along steadily by Martin Brassil, who trained Grand National winner Numbersixvalverde in 2006, and was facing by far his stiffest test to date.

Ridden by Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle hero Mark Walsh, the only moment of worry came on the approach to the second-last when City Island went for a gap between Sams Profile and Valdieu – but he made it just in time.

Into the straight, it only concerned two – Champ coming clear with the 8-1 winner, but Nicky Henderson’s 9-2 chance gave way after the last with City Island a two-length winner.

Ben Pauling’s Bright Forecast stayed on for third, just ahead of Brewin’upastorm.

A delighted Mulryan said: “The heartbeat is very high – it’s a dream come true.

“He won in Galway and we said we’d aim for this race. We’re absolutely ecstatic.

“I thought he wasn’t enjoying the ground, but the way he finished the race was fantastic.”

It was a landmark first Festival winner for Brassil.

He said: “It’s been a long time coming. You need good horses to bring here. We found one.

“The thought I had was you bring a horse here thinking he’s unbeatable and you might have a chance of him doing something good then.

“It’s great to have a Festival winner on your CV.”

“He could be a Stayers’ Hurdle horse

He went on: “I was hoping he’d do something like that, but you never know when you get to this place as a lot of dreams are shattered here. Luckily ours weren’t.

“From the first time we did a swinging canter with him we liked him. He was weak and we gave him time.

“This is the Olympics of National Hunt racing and it’s great to be able to compete at that level.

“He could be a Stayers’ Hurdle horse. Mark said the last day after he won at Naas that he’ll get three miles and he’ll jump a fence – he’s jumped plenty of them before.”

Mark Walsh returns victorious aboard City Island
Mark Walsh returns victorious aboard City Island (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Comparing victory to his National triumph, he added: “This is championship racing. Numbersixvalverde went the handicap route of the Thyestes and the Irish Grand National and the Aintree Grand National.

“That was great and when you win a National you’re celebrating for a year afterwards, whereas you win a race here and you’re back to work the next day – looking for the next one.

“He’ll go to Punchestown all being well.

“I’m not really interested in having more than 25 or 30 horses. Quality is what we want, not quantity.”

An impressed Walsh said: “We still don’t know how good he is because even when he gets to the front he doesn’t do a stroke.”

Henderson said of Champ: “He ran a great race. He travelled very well, he did nothing wrong and ran a very good race. He was a bit keen at times, but he jumped well.

“I don’t know whether we will go again this season, but that was only really his third run of the season as the first two were back in May, so he could easily go again.

“I’m pretty sure that is his trip.”

Pauling was immensely proud of Bright Forecast.

He said: “He ran an absolute blinder. He was a little bit outpaced early doors, but he galloped on and stayed every yard of the trip. It was a super ride by Nico (de Boinville) and he was flying at the death.

“He is just a shell of a horse and that was only his fourth start under rules.

“He is serious and will be a fabulous horse.”

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