Doors swung open for comeback kid Canaly on Saturday, when the veteran romped to victory in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Amateur Grand National at Punchestown.
Ridden by record setting jockey Derek O’Connor, Canaly powered over the last, leaving this season’s leading point-to-point rider Barry O’Neill and He Rock’s four lengths adrift.
It was a remarkable second Amateur Grand National win for O’Connor and marked the start of a new era for his 12 year old mount.
Trainer Sandra Hughes said: “He hadn’t run over that far in a long time, but we just thought we’d try him because he’s not quickening up over the shorter trips now.
“Now that I know he does stay he has a lot more options. He probably needs the three miles now as he’s more comfortable going that pace.
“His owner Mr Moore has had so much patience as this horse has broken down twice. He’s given him the time to come back each time. It’s paid off today.”
For O’Connor the ride was a late call-up, but when poor weather grounded his original mount Subtle Grey in England, he was keen not to miss the historic race for the Conyngham Cup.
He said: “I won it last year and really enjoyed it. There was a presentation as well at the Punchestown festival, with a trophy and a picture given to me, and I thought that was a nice touch.
“Without a doubt, there isn’t another racecourse in the world that supports amateur riders as well as Punchestown does; they stay true to their roots.”