City Island, the horse owned by Ballymore’s Chairman and Group Chief Executive Sean Mulryan and his family, beat the favourite to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, the race sponsored by the Group.
With record numbers of racegoers breathing a sigh of relief after day two of the Festival finally getting the go-ahead after fears that strong winds would force a postponement, the six year-old City Island, jockeyed by Mark Walsh and trained by Grand National winner Martin Brassil, was one of six horses vying for the lead as the field approached the second-last fence.
City Island, who shares the name of Ballymore Group’s major docklands development, was 8-1 against the favourite Champ at 9-2. His second win of the Festival, jockey Mark Walsh said: “We still don’t know how good he is because even when he gets to the front he doesn’t do a stroke”. It was a first Festival success for trainer Brassil.
Presenting the trophy to his wife, Bernardine, a delighted Sean Mulryan said afterwards: “The heartbeat is very high - it’s a dream come true. He won in Galway and we said we’d aim for this race. We’re absolutely ecstatic. I thought he wasn’t enjoying the ground, but the way he finished the race was fantastic.”
After a decade-long break, Ballymore made its return to Cheltenham last year, sponsoring The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, a prominent feature of Ladies Day. One of the best novice hurdle races of the season, the race - over the distance of two miles five furlongs - usually brings together some of the best up and coming horses.