KILLEAGH-BASED trainer Pat Fitzgerald registered his first winner with Champagne Beauty at Roscommon in September and they were back in the winners’ enclosure at a recent meeting at Wexford Racecourse.
Grand National hero Ricky Doyle steered Champagne Beauty to a short-head win in the Traynor’s Of Wexford Novice Handicap Chase, scoring for breeder/owner/trainer Pat Fitzgerald.
It was such an exciting finish as Champagne Beauty was badly distracted by loose horse Diamond Turf approaching the final fence.
Doyle managed to keep the seven-year-old mare going and while the pair were all-out close home, the winner held on for a short-head win over The Echo Boy, at odds 4-1.
A primary school teacher in Gortroe, Mikey told The Echo: “It was brilliant to win again.
We have only one horse in training, so to be competing at such a high standard and to be winning down at Wexford is unbelievable.”
It was a third career success for Champagne Beauty, as she had won a PTP at Turtulla, before winning at Roscommon.
One-horse handler Pat Fitzgerald, who hails from the Halfway Bar, which is only a stone’s throw away from his local point-to-point track, Inch, showed his delight with a really colourful interview on Racing TV after the race. Full of praise for his son, Mikey, who does tremendous work with the mare at home.
Speaking about the family's background within the sport of horse racing, Mikey said: “We only have one horse. My father would have trained more in the past, but it’s more of a hobby now, he’s a farmer and a bus driver. I’m a primary school teacher, teaching down in Clonpriest, and for me again it’s just a hobby after school. I look forward to getting home and exercising the mare and at the weekends going off galloping.”
The Cork handler uses local facilities to keep the mare in top form and prepared for race days.
The Fitzgeralds are now dreaming of more racing success with the well-named Champagne Beauty.
“Hopefully, she will run in Punchestown, in the valuable Mares Chase. She has already brought us to the Galway Races and the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. She will be getting the weight and hopefully, she will get to take her chance. She just wants good ground, and this is the time of year we want her to be running.
“Hopefully, we will get to go to plenty of meetings around the summer.”
On that very same day at Wexford, The Getaway Queen scored in the Good Enuf To Eat Banqueting Handicap Hurdle, winning for Killeagh trainer Ken Budds and former Cork hurler, Mark Landers.
Produced from off the pace by Sean Flanagan to beat Just Another Lady by two and a half lengths. It went down as a real nice performance from the winner.
A consistent lady, The Getaway Queen could be worth following over the coming months as she will certainly appreciate nice summer ground.
Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM) has become a Grade 1 race-sponsor at the Punchestown Festival and first entries for the ‘ITM — Supporting The Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race’ promise a compelling rematch between the main protagonists from the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
All bar two of the 17 initial engagements for the €100,000 contest on Wednesday, April 28 are former winners, headed by the Willie Mullins’ Sir Gerhard (IRE), who proved a half a length too strong for stable companion Kilcruit (IRE) on St Patrick’s Day at Prestbury Park. Three Stripe Life (IRE) and Grangee, fourth and sixth home in the same race, are also pencilled-in.
Befitting the race title, the majority of the entries received that passed through public auction were sourced at the Irish Store Sales. These comprise the Goffs Land Rover Sale and the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, both taking place in June, along with the Tattersalls Ireland July Store Sales.
Charles O’Neill, CEO of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, said: “ITM is delighted to support this championship race at Punchestown. It comes at a time when the stock of Irish-bred store horses has never been higher in the wake of their record-breaking exploits at Cheltenham, Fairyhouse and Aintree and no doubt more stars of the future are waiting to be discovered at the sales this summer.”
Recent renewals of the ITM — Supporting The Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race have been particularly strong. Colreevy (IRE) triumphed in 2019 and has since gone onto Cheltenham Festival glory. Other former winners to have flourished subsequently at the highest level since include Bellshill (IRE) and Champagne Fever (IRE).
If Sir Gerhard (IRE) is to add victory in this race to the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, he will emulate only Cousin Vinny (IRE), Champagne Fever (IRE) and Fayonagh (IRE) in doing the double.