My first Cheltenham Festival winner - Jason Maguire

Fri 9 Mar 2018

Tasting success at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time is a moment to savour for any jockey, even more so when it arrives in Grade One company.

It is a feeling the now-retired Jason Maguire is familiar with following his victory aboard the Polish-bred Galileo in the 2002 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle.

After making a winning British debut at Kempton, the Tom George-trained gelding backed it up when running out a three-and-a-half-length winner of the two-mile-five-furlong contest at 12-1.

Maguire said: "It was unbelievable. I had been in England a couple of years tipping away at Tom George's. At the time he (Galileo) had come over from Poland to Tom George. He won at Kempton a couple of weeks before and bolted up. It was surprising as with the Polish form there no way of rating it or getting a handle on it.

"He went to Cheltenham and to be honest I was thinking and wondering if I would keep the ride. Obviously it was a big festival and I was not riding hundreds of winners at the time. Sometimes when an owner has a potential champion at Cheltenham they want a big name, but thankfully the owner let me keep the ride on him.

"I remember riding him out on the Sunday morning before the Festival. I had been half day-dreaming of winning the race. I rang my uncle and told him to have a few quid on him as we fancied him, but he thought I was mad.

"There was a lot of hustle and bustle in the race and it was only his second run over hurdles. I remember Liam Cooper falling two out on Keen Leader and I had to jump over the horse on the ground. I thought that was curtains, but that seemed to spark him up

"He had a good a look around when he got to the front. We had a bit of a moment at the last. I took my hands of the reins and gave him a smack down the shoulder. I knew it wasn't the thing to do and he dived left.

"I was obviously shocked that he won it, but you never forget your first Festival winner, it was what I had been dreaming of doing since I was a kid."

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