Donn's Articles » Barry Geraghty

Barry Geraghty

Barry Geraghty and the Galway Hurdle have history together.  In 2002 the Meathman rode Mutakarrim for Dermot Weld to finish second in the race behind Say Again.  In 2011 he rode the Gordon Elliott-trained Dirar to finish third behind Moon Dice.  In 2015 he went down to the final hurdle on Thomas Edison with a big chance, but the horse got the obstacle wrong and came down.

“I had hit the crossbar a few times all right,” says the rider.

In 2006 Geraghty was all set to ride Cuan Na Grai for Paul Nolan in the Galway Hurdle, but he took a crashing fall from Limerick Lord in the opening race that day, the beginners’ chase, and fractured his cheek and nose.  He watched Cuan Na Grai and Paddy Flood win the Galway Hurdle from Galway University Hospital.

In 2013 he turned down the ride on the Michael Winters-trained Missunited in order to ride the favourite Ted Veale.  It wasn’t that he didn’t think that Missunited had a chance.  On the contrary, he thought that she had a big chance, he just thought that Ted Veale had a better one.  He finished eighth on Ted Veale behind Missunited, who was guided to victory by Robbie Power. 

Barry Geraghty had never won the Galway Hurdle before last Thursday.  Then the planets aligned and he booted Tigris River to victory.

“It wasn’t really on my mind that I had never won it,” he says now.  “I was aware of it all right, and I was thinking that it might be one of the prizes that would get away from me, that I might not win it.  But it only comes up once a year, and it’s a difficult race to win, it’s a highly competitive handicap hurdle.  It was brilliant to win it though.”

There are not many big National Hunt prizes that have eluded Geraghty.  The Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the Aintree Grand National, the Irish Grand National, the Irish Gold Cup, the Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle, the King George.  He has won them all.  In 2003, the year that he won the Grand National on Monty’s Pass, he rode five winners at the Cheltenham Festival, and was voted Irish Sports Person of the Year.  He was the first jockey ever to receive that accolade. 

Geraghty had had this year’s Galway Festival marked in his calendar for a while.  He had been on the sidelines for three and a half months, since he had that fall from Minella Foru in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April and broke his left arm, his humerus.  The same injury as he suffered last summer, the Turf Club’s senior medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick told us.  Now I have matching scars, Geraghty said. 

In truth, the rider has had a tough time of it recently with injuries.  It was in a fall in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen last July from Cernunnos that he broke his right arm, and that kept him out of last year’s Galway Festival.  Another fall at Kempton in February from Charli Parcs resulted in six broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and he missed this year’s Cheltenham Festival as a result.  But he got back in time for the Aintree Grand National meeting, and reminded us of how much he had been missed when he landed Grade 1 races on Defi Du Seuil, Buveur D’Air and Yanworth. 

Defi Du Seuil and Buveur D’Air won fairly easily, but Geraghty had to be strong on Yanworth in the Liverpool Hurdle, he needed all his lungs and all his ribs to drive him home.  It was great to have him back, his boss JP McManus said.  Then, nine days later, he had that fall in the Irish National.

Falls and injuries are part of the National Hunt rider’s jurisdiction.  You expect to fall, you expect to get injured, you know that two ambulances follow you as you work.  But even by a National Hunt rider’s standards, Geraghty has been unlucky in the last 12 months.

As well as breaking his arm in that fall at Fairyhouse in April, he also broke a wing of a vertebrae, and the muscle in that area gave him trouble for a while.  But he marked Galway in his calendar and he worked hard on his recuperation.  And typically, he timed his run perfectly. 

“I was always happy that I would make it back in time for Galway, until the last few weeks maybe, as it was getting closer.  I did a lot of work in Santry, and Paddy Kenny looks after me well.  It was great to get there.”

He had been riding out for just a week before he got the leg up on Le Richebourg for the opening race at Galway on Monday evening, but you would not have thought that he had ever been away.  There was the familiar Geraghty sit, his horse settled and travelling and jumping, a young horse who was racing over hurdles for just the third time.

The rider didn’t panic when his horse made a mistake at the second last hurdle and allowed leader Twobeelucky get away from him a little.  He just gave his horse a squeeze, allowed him regain his balance around the home turn, and helped him get organised for the final obstacle, which he jumped perfectly.  Then the pair of them came clear up the run-in. 

“It was brilliant to win on Le Richebourg, it was great to come back with a winner.  A winner at Galway is always sweet, and especially seeing as I missed the Festival last year.” 

He had a choice to make in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday, given that his boss JP McManus had seven runners in the race.

“I didn’t feel like I could get down to ride some of the lower-weighted horses, I just didn’t feel like I would be at full strength doing a really low weight, not after so long on the sidelines.  But I had had my eye on Tigris River for a while.  It was a really open race, you could have made a case for 10 or 12 of the runners, but I thought that my horse had a good chance.”

They went fast up front, as they usually do in a Galway Hurdle, and that suited Tigris River.  The Joseph O’Brien-trained gelding was going as fast as he wanted to go through the early stages of the race, but his rider was always happy that the leaders would come back.  Then Swamp Fox kicked clear at the final hurdle.

“I thought that we were struggling at the last to get to the leader.  But in fairness to Tigris River, he had been flat to the boards for a while, but he dug deep on the run-in.  About 70 yards out, I thought that we would get there.  And we did.  Just.  That was a good feeling.”

He didn’t punch the air or do a cartwheel in the saddle or anything on crossing the winning line.  He just exhaled.  No nonsense.  Typical Geraghty.  Job done.  Another perfectly-timed run.

© The Sunday Times, 6th August 2017