Gordon Elliott’s Clarcam defied odds of 33-1 to ran out a facile winner of thetote.com Galway Plate.
The dual Grade One-winning chaser had made a successful start to last season in the Fortria Chase at Navan, but subsequently disappointed and was largely overlooked in the market for his first start since April in this 250,000 euro feature.
Mark Enright positioned the eight-year-old close to the front from the off and he was left in front after British challenger Drumcliff fell six fences from home.
Clarcam steadily extended his advantage over the rest of the field and was a long way clear jumping the final obstacle.
He unsurprisingly tired on the long run for home, briefly giving supporters of the Willie Mullins-trained 9-2 favourite Patricks Park hope, but try as he might the market leader could not bridge the gap and Clarcam passed the post six lengths to the good.
Elliott also saddled the third home, Jury Duty, with Snow Falcon fourth for Noel Meade, while owners Gigginstown House Stud were winning the race for the third year in succession.
Clarcam was one of four runners in the race for Elliott and one of six in the Gigginstown colours.
Michael O’Leary’s operation had previously struck gold with Road To Riches (2014), Lord Scoundrel (2016) and Balko Des Flos (2017).
Gigginstown manager Eddie O’Leary said: “What a performance. I don’t know where it came from, because of all of ours he was the least fancied.
“He enjoys being given a bit of a freebie in front. I was surprised he got it.
“It was a fantastic performance from the horse and jockey. It was an inspired ride.
“This horse has been an unbelievable servant.
“It’s been a fantastic day and fair do’s to Gordon – what a master trainer.”
Elliott said: “It was great. We thought he was a bit of a blast from the past, Clarcam. He was a dual Grade One winner and was probably the class horse in the race when you go back and look at it.
“Mark gave him a great ride and he jumped from fence to fence. I thought he was going to get swallowed up coming up the hill, but it was brilliant.
“I told Mark to go out and enjoy himself, let him bowl along as it’s the only way he likes to be ridden.”
Enright was completing a double on the day, having earlier steered another 33-1 shot, Rovetta, to victory in the mares’ handicap hurdle.
The jockey admitted to considering retirement from the saddle earlier in his career after battling depression.
Elliott added: “Fair play to Mark. He started riding out for us last winter with no promises to get any rides. He said ‘look, I don’t want any rides, I just want a base to ride out and if you give me a ride or two, grand’.
“He only got on the horse at 11.30am the day before so it’s great for him. We were going to claim off him and Conor Orr was to ride, but he’s still amateur and it would cost too much if he won the race. Mark was there and Eddie said let him ride him.
“I didn’t think I had a whole lot for Galway coming here. We had a couple of placed horses and were delighted.
“Everyone knows we’ve had a quiet summer for different reasons, but the horses are back bombing now and I just can’t wait for the winter to come and to get all the winter horses back in.
“Jury Dury ran well and I was very proud of him, he ran a great race. There is a good one in him somewhere.”
Enright said: “Any time you ride for Gordon, you know you have a chance. You just get so much confidence from him. He told me to let him wing away as he’s a great jumper.
“I had a willing partner, but these things just don’t happen to me. It’s absolutely brilliant.
“When you’re riding for the likes of Gordon Elliott, you know you have a chance every time you go out and he’s so easy to ride for. I’m very grateful to the O’Learys as well for letting me ride him.”
The stewards on track had earlier inquired into the withdrawal of the Mullins-trained Ballycasey on account of the rain-softened ground, which allowed first reserve Patricks Park to get a run.
Speaking before the Galway Plate was run, the champion trainer defended his decision and was unhappy at the handling of the situation by the authorities.
Mullins said: “I was surprised to be called in and disappointed that we couldn’t take him out here on the track.
“I sent someone up to walk the track and sent him in to the scales to withdraw him, but wasn’t allowed and had to go and ring some phone number.
“I can’t understand why you can’t take your horse out at the scales. I’m very disappointed and it’s ridiculous actually that you can’t take your horse out at the races on the day.
“When we saw all the rain we wanted to ask them to take him out and they couldn’t, so we had to go and ring some central number. I don’t know whether it’s bringing racing forward or back.
“It sounds ridiculous to me, the rigmarole we had to go through today to take the horse out and withdraw him.
“Patricks Park was lucky to get in in that we had a change of ground and the other horse was withdrawn.”