Jon Freeman: Irish buddies, plus a little bit of genius, enjoy seeing off Dynaste

Flavour of the Festival
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are Cheltenham dreams and there are New York fairy tales and both were realised joyously for Aidan Shiels and Niall Reilly when Benefficient won the Jewson Chase.

Celebrations are rarely reserved at the Festival, but few could ever have matched the passion of these two Irish buddies, who, between huge man hugs, rattled off in praise of trainer Tony Martin, jockey Bryan Cooper (riding his first Festival winner) and the horse himself, one they claim had been shamefully underrated.

Shiels and Reilly settled in New York as young men back in the Nineties and are partners in the construction industry. Shiels also runs a pub called The Irish Rover in Queens.

"Look, we've been known to celebrate when there's hardly anything going on, so I think you'll be hearing from us tonight," Reilly said.

For once, it wasn't so much about the punt. Reilly had asked for an ante-post price about Benefficient, but "got scared" when offered 66-1.

"He has run some great races," with Grade One wins over hurdles and fences, "but everybody kept undervaluing what he did, saying that this fell or that didn't stay or something," Reilly said. "So we really wanted this for some respect. Not for us, but for the horse."

But their biggest tribute was for Martin, part of the Festival furniture for the past 25 years, first as a rider and now as a trainer.

"He told us how Dynaste [the hot favourite] would come at him and why we shouldn't be worried because he would go on again. And he was exactly right. Exactly. Genius."

This race was supposed to kick-start David Pipe's week, Dynaste considered one of the bankers of the meeting.

Martin is more reserved when celebrating. "I've been coming here for so long," he said, "and I remember every winner as if it were yesterday. And it's still as special now as it has ever been."