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Mum’s the word for Galway’s racing prodigy

It’s the enduring image of the 2023 Galway Races; Danny Gilligan getting a kiss on the cheek from his mother Natalie in the winner’s enclosure at Ballybrit after the teenager rode the winner in the Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday.

That’s the stuff of dreams for any jockey, but especially for a 17-year-old from Craughwell who grew up dreaming of riding a winner at his local track.

It was a fairytale too for Natalie, who reared four sons – Jack, Liam, Danny and Ollie – who are all mad into horses.

“The whole week was great for every one of us at home, especially Danny’s mother. She gets a mighty kick out of it. Whether it was him or whether it was Jack or Liam, whichever of them, she gets a great kick out of it. The fact that she owns a few of the horses as well, it was great,” said trainer Paul John Gilligan, Danny’s father.

Danny’s first Galway festival was in 2022 – he finished third on the family’s filly Ruby Jewels on the flat – but this year was his first over jumps at Ballybrit and he scored a hat-trick of wins.

Either side of the biggest ride of his career to date on the Gordon Elliot trained Ash Tree Meadow in the festival’s main race, Danny rode winners for JP McManus and Philip Dempsey, Neveradullmoment in the Easyfix Handicap Hurdle on Monday; and for John Joseph Hanlon by 11 lengths on 100/30 shot Enfranchise on Saturday.


Winner Alright… Jockey Danny Gilligan receives a kiss from his mother Natalie, after riding Ash Tree Meadow to victory in The Tote Galway Plate at the Galway Races.


Get the full story – and the final word on this year’s Galway Races, on and off the track – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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