A crowd of 30,294 saw the Joseph O’Brien-trained Tigris River (5/1) snatch the first prize of €177,000 in the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle from Swamp Fox (8/1) at the Ballybrit venue on Thursday.
Swamp Fox headed the Grade One-winning mare Airlie Beach (9/1) at the last hurdle and looked the likely winner of the feature race on Ladies’ Day but Barry Geraghty kept working on the JP McManus-owned 6 year-old Tigris River to nab Swamp Fox in the shadow of the winning post to take the win by a neck, with Airlie Beach staying on for third.
Winning rider Barry Geraghty, who only returned to the saddle from injury this week, was winning the two-mile contest for the first time. McManus’ retained jockey heaped praise on Joseph O’Brien’s training of the son of Montjeu, saying:
“Joseph had this fella in great shape. Having said that, he never looked a winner until the death. I wasn’t confident of getting to the one in front, but my horse was brave.”
For O’Brien, who was completing a double following the success of Tesseract (7/1) in the Guinness Galway Gold Beginners Chase, winning the Galway Hurdle was extra special as his father, Aidan, landed the major prize 20 years ago with Toast The Spruce.
Winning owner JP McManus explained the importance of the Galway Races to him following his win:
“Galway is a marvellous meeting and the excitement and the build-up is so important. When Punchestown goes, everyone speaks about Galway and the Plate and the Hurdle, and what you might have that you can maybe programme them for.”
Despite Thursday’s attendance being down 2,369, the first four days of this year’s races has seen an overall increase of 203 patrons against the 2016 figures.