winner all right | 

Horse bought online for €5,000 by Galway syndicate floors Festival rivals at Cheltenham

‘There will be porter drank tonight,’ says co-owner after bargain buy lands €217,000 top prize

The connections of Flooring Porter celebrate after winning the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire for the Jockey Club

Racegoers react as they watch the Craft Irish Whiskey Co Plate Handicap Chase during day three of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Danny Mullins celebrates on Flooring Porter after winning the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Photo: Reuters/Molly Darlington

Ciara O’Loughlin

The luck of the Irish certainly won out at Cheltenham yesterday as a Galway syndicate landed their second Festival triumph with Flooring Porter, a horse they bought for just €5,000 from an internet ad.

Despite it being St Patrick’s Day, members of the syndicate donned black and white as a nod to the silks worn by winning Kilkenny jockey Danny Mullins, who steered Flooring Porter to victory.

The atmosphere in the winner’s enclosure after they crossed the finish line in the Stayers’ Hurdle was like no other seen over the past three days as friends and family of the four-man syndicate went wild.

The Galway men lifted jockey Mullins onto their shoulders singing “there’s only one Flooring Porter” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”.

The horse, owned by Edward ‘Ned’ Hogarty, Kerrill Creaven, and father and son Alan and Tommy Sweeney, won the Goffs award for the Best Value Purchase Racehorse 2020-21.

The name Flooring Porter came about because Ned owns a flooring company and the three other men used to own a local pub, The Countryman, in Ballinasloe.

It was the second time the horse has won a race at the Cheltenham Festival, after also bringing home the Stayers’ Hurdle last year, however, it’s the first time the syndicate has got to celebrate in Prestbury Park as last year’s event was held behind closed doors due to Covid.

Speaking in the winner’s enclosure after the historic win, co-owner Tommy Sweeney said: “It’s fabulous, words can’t describe it.

“It’s great to be out here with the lads, it’s very emotional. There will be porter drank tonight.

“It was always in doubt. To get into Cheltenham is hard enough. It’s unreal, we used to be thinking Galway was our ambition, if you were to ever have a horse, it was to run it in Galway, but thinking of it running in Cheltenham is something else.”

After spending just €5,000 to buy the horse from a Facebook ad back in 2018 and an extra €5,000 to get him trained, Mr Sweeney wouldn’t say just how much the horse has won them but said “we’ve won a good bit today”. £182,878 (€217,000) was the top prize for yesterday’s race alone.

Ned Hogarty said: “We all needed this at home.

“It’s been strange times the last couple of years and this is a morale boost.

“If anyone had told me we wouldn’t have won again until now I wouldn’t have believed them. The horse was due it, we were due it, the parish was due it, and the country was due it. Hopefully, we can all celebrate and drink a few pints on Paddy’s Day.”

Earlier in the day, it was heartbreak for another Irish-trained horse Galopin Des Champs and jockey Paul Townend as they fell after clearing the last fence when the horse dipped its head into the ground on landing.

Speaking before the first race of the day, Joe Turley from Rathgar, Dublin, said: “We’re here to support Galopin Des Champs, it’s my sister-in-law and brother’s horse so we are expecting great things.

“This is the main race for us, we will have a depressing day if he doesn’t win.

“We had a bit of kick during the week, Burning Victory went down blazing. But this lady (pointing to his wife) won a lot of money yesterday.”

Asked how much she had won, Deirdre Turley wouldn’t say exactly, but did say “enough to buy a nice hat here in Cheltenham”.

While it was bad luck for the Dubliners, Cheltenham queen Rachael Blackmore, scooted up to claim victory aboard Bob Olinger after her rival’s fall . “It is fantastic to win but nobody likes winning in those circumstances,” she said. “It is brilliant to see Paul (Townend) and Galopin Des Champs are both OK and that is the main thing.”

It was trainer Henry De Bromhead’s second win of the festival after Honeysuckle was ridden to victory by Blackmore on Tuesday. He said: “We all want to win but we don’t like to win like that, but it’s great to win, of course.”

As Prince Charles and Camilla are due to visit Ireland next week, De Bromhead said he’s not sure if Prince Charles will be visiting his stables in Waterford but Camilla will be, and will hopefully get to meet Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle. “It’s great, anyone that wants to see our yard and our horses is very welcome,” he said.

Unlike Wednesday’s washout, the sun shone for St Patrick’s Day as many punters donned green for day three.

An Irish stag party turned heads down at the track as they all wore green scarves and knitted horse hats.

The group of seven said they were looking forward to enjoying St Patrick’s Day for the first time in three years .

As things stood yesterday, it was a tight call to see who will come away with The Prestbury Cup today with Ireland leading Great Britain by 11 to 10. Rachael Blackmore is also in the reckoning to become the top jockey at the Festival for a second year running, with two wins under her belt so far. Paul Townend, however, leads with three wins.

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