CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL NEWS: FIRST FESTIVAL SUCCESS FOR JOCKEY LIAM MCKENNA AS GOOD TIME JONNY TAKES PERTEMPS FINAL
Thursday 16th March
Jockey Liam McKenna enjoyed a first Festival success when partnering Good Time Jonny to victory in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.
For trainer Tony Martin, it was a seventh Festival win and his first since 2015.
Tony Martin said: “He was last at the top of the hill, but Liam had the patience to sit and wait, and it turned out well. Days like this are the ones you live for. It’s been a few years now since we had a winner here, but it is worth the agony and the hardship. It’s absolutely brilliant. A bit of a gap makes it better! We had a lot of good years and some bad luck, and it’s nice to be back with some good horses. They are not Grade One horses, but in their own category they are alright. Great men [jockeys and staff] are behind me this year and I’m just so happy for them.
“As they turned in he began to pick up a bit again. I know it is a long way and a long call. He never chased them when he could have, when 10 lads, including non-claiming professionals, would have chased them. I know Liam is a claimer but he had the balls to sit and think they had done very little, and he judged it to perfection. The horse answered him the whole way through the last two furlongs.
“These colours, the Beneficial colours, have given us great days.
“It’s unfortunate that Liam is claiming five pounds - he just never got the rub of the green and things didn’t quite happen for him, but he is a more than capable rider and I wouldn’t look past him when I want to claim. He’s as good as any, he just didn’t get the rub of the green at the right time in life.
“The horse has been coming real well since Leopardstown last time, I just thought the ground might not suit him - he likes better ground, but he went through it well.”
Liam McKenna said: “I don’t know how I did that. I had a willing partner from turning in and the long run in really suited him but everything else didn’t suit him how the race was run. I never got into a position that I was comfortable with and we were always a little bit further back than we wanted to be. The plan was not to get upsides until going to the last and somehow we were able to get upsides going to the last and then he just put his head down and toughed it out.
“That was the first problem (the start) and not too far along a horse fell in front of him and he had to step to the side to get by him. It all just worked out at the very end.
“I rode him at Leopardstown in the qualifier and he was a little bit the same (not jumping well) and I just put it down to the softer ground and that he is a better horse on better ground. When he started to pick up going to the last from there on, I knew he was going to do it. It took a furlong and a half for him to outstay them. It (that feeling) is indescribable, maybe next time I can tell you. It is just sinking in now.
“My first ride back from breaking my collarbone was the Galway Hurdle then I got going after that then I broke my cheekbone and eye socket a month after and was out again for a while. It has been touch and go but the highs have been very high and I’m happy with that.”
Gordon Elliott, trainer of second placed Salvador Ziggy said: "I'd delighted with that performance under the big weight. There is every chance he will go to Punchestown next month as long as he is fine when he gets back. But I'm hopeful a switch to chasing will be the making of him next season."
Rita Brown, owner of the third-placed Mill Green (22-1), said: “We’re just so proud of him. He was the (joint) oldest horse in the race as an 11 year old but he still wants to go! He never runs a bad race and we were thrilled to be in the first three. Coming back safely was the most important thing and he’s given us another wonderful day out.”
Venetia Williams, trainer of the fourth-placed Green Book (40-1), said: “I’m delighted. He’s such a little star. There was a whole heap of horses coming to challenge going to the last but he’s stuck on really well.”
2.10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) 3m
- Good Time Jonny 9-1
- Salvador Ziggy 10-1
- Mill Green 22-1
- Green Book 40-1
Distances: 3¼, nk
Time: 6m 0.16s
1st winner at The Festival for jockey Liam McKenna
7th winner at The Festival for trainer Tony Martin