BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GAVIN Sheehan is confident that his fantastic Ladbrokes World Hurdle victory at Cheltenham will open more doors for him.
The talented Dunmanway jockey (22) was the toast of West Cork following his brilliant ride on Cole Harden in the Grade 1 race last Thursday that gave Sheehan his first-ever Cheltenham winner in just his second time competing at the famous event.
Sheehan, riding for trainer Warren Greatrex on Cole Harden, a 14-1 shot, led the World Hurdle from start to finish to beat the favourite, Saphir Du Rheu, in commanding fashion. He had nearly four lengths to spare as he crossed the finishing line.
It was a monumental victory for the Dunmanway jockey, who last year was crowned British Champion Conditional Jump Jockey.
‘It was incredible, amazing, out of this world; all those sort of words still can’t even describe what it was like,’ Sheehan told The Southern Star this week.
‘To ride a winner at Cheltenham is something that you always dream of, and to go out there and ride a winner in a Grade 1 race, and one of the four big races of the week, is just unbelievable.’
‘I was confident going into it. He was showing good signs at home and I knew we had a very good chance. His jumping was brilliant.
‘The minute I saw the finishing line my heart just jumped. That’s exactly what happened – it jumped. It was an incredible feeling. I didn’t believe it at first. It was like it was too good to be true.’
What this does now is boost Sheehan’s credentials in the British jockeys’ room and it can, and should, lead to bigger and better opportunities for this rising West Cork sports star.
‘Ideally that’s what you want – to get a big winner so you get noticed. There is no bigger place than Cheltenham to get noticed,’ Sheehan said.
‘Hopefully, now I will get the chance to ride for bigger trainers and bigger owners who will now know about my ability and who won’t be afraid to put me out some day.’
He added: ‘I will definitely be hungry to get a second Cheltenham winner. That’s what the whole year revolves around. That’s why we put in all the hard work and why we put up with the bad days, all for that feeling of riding a winner at Cheltenham and for me it was winning the World Hurdle. I’m going to push myself now.’
His mom, Geraldine, and brother Keith were in Cheltenham to roar him onto victory, another brother Alan watched on from Australia, while at home his father Sean and siblings Mark, Tracey and Jennifer, as well as close family and friends all toasted the highlight of his career to date.
Sheehan has already been back in the winner’s enclosure three times since Thursday, in both Southwell and Uttoxeter, as he builds on his current momentum.
There was further West Cork success at Cheltenham, as Courtmacsherry celebrated when On The Fringe won the Foxhunters’ Chase. The winner was bred by Pat Tobin at Ballinamona.