Galway trainer Gilligan launches three-pronged challenge on big festival


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway trainer Gilligan launches three-pronged challenge on big festival Galway trainer Gilligan launches three-pronged challenge on big festival

HAVE horse will travel. It’s a modus operandi which has served Galway trainer Paul Gilligan well down through the years.

Distance has never got in the way of the Craughwell handler who is putting the final touches to a potential three-pronged challenge on the Cheltenham Festival next week.

And Gilligan will be heading to the Cotswold in high spirits after saddling Zeeband to narrowly land a maiden hurdle at a soaking Leopardstown on Monday.

The seven-year-old was steered to a neck victory over Master Otis by one of Paul’s four sons, Jack, who is likely to be also on board the yard’s three Cheltenham contenders.

First up will be the recent Thurles winner Kings Hill in Tuesday’s Supreme Novices Hurdle, while Sequestererd has a choice of engagements in the Coral Cup or the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle if he makes the cut.

Most eyes, however, will be on Buddy One which is being aimed at next Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle – a race in which Gilligan saddled Berties Dream to finish an honourable sixth in 2011.

Twelve months earlier, the Galway stable had pulled off a fairytale and unexpected success with the same horse in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at odds of 33/1.

Gilligan is enjoying a good season, taking advantage of going upmarket in terms of attracting a better type of horse to the yard, with Buddy One the undoubted flagbearer.

The popular seven-year-old has already showed his liking for Cheltenham by landing the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle last November. Buddy One, a well-supported 9/4 market leader, was always doing enough to hold off his only serious challenge up the hill in The Newest One.

Subsequently, there was an ambitious tilt at the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, but Gilligan’s charge was taken off his feet when the race developed into something of a sprint finish.

Pictured: Craughwell trainer Paul Gilligan at his stables with Cheltenham Festival bound duo, Buddy One in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and Kings Hill in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Photos: Brian Harding.

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