Saldier defies top weight to claim Galway Hurdle in style

Class prevailed in the €250,000 Guinness Galway Hurdle  on Thursday as Saldier defied top weight to complete a big-race Galway double for Willie Mullins.

Just 24 hours after landing the Galway Plate with Royal Rendezvous, Mullins struck again as Saldier, ridden by the trainer's son Patrick, returned to the form which saw him win two Grade 1s in 2018 and 2019.

Sole British raider Milkwood stayed on for second ahead of Cape Gentleman and Jesse Evans.

Patrick Mullins said: "I was going down the back straight down the rail following Hannon, and I could see Paul [Townend] was going quite well on my outside [on Ciel De Niege].

"I was trying to move out to follow him, but then Sneaky Getaway was hemming me in. I had to sit and wait until Sneaky Getaway went by me and then launch this fella. At the last hurdle we were very, very long. It was roll the dice and pray, but he came up for me. Saldier deserves huge credit for that.

"We thought two miles was going to be on the short side for him. He can maybe be a bit sulky if things aren't going his way and we had the cheekpieces on because I wanted him to get away lively."

Saldier spent over 400 days out with injury after winning the Morgiana Hurdle in November 2019 and failed to show his old spark in four starts in Grade 1 company last season.

Two runs on the Flat, including a fifth in the Copper Horse at Royal Ascot, appear to have reignited the Rich Ricci-owned seven-year-old and his unexpected victory here came at odds of 18-1 and off a mark of 155.

The 20-runner field needed several attempts at lining up before the starter was happy to let them go, and once they did it was the outsider Hannon who made the early running.

The winner was prominent throughout and despite Cape Gentleman briefly coming through to hit the front after the last fence, it was Saldier who powered ahead to win by two lengths.

The victory was a third in the last four runnings of the Galway Hurdle for the father-son Mullins duo having previously triumphed with Sharjah in 2018 and Aramon last year.

The winning rider added: "The three horses I've won this race on have been Grade 1 horses. It's probably a bit easier to carry weight on this ground as well. They have class. I know weight can stop trains but for some reason in this race they seem to be able to carry it.

"I never thought I'd get to ride in the race, let alone win it, as an amateur at my weight. I'll have to try to win the Connacht Hotel Handicap next year, and the Plate is on the list as well. We have more to do."