There was a very special conclusion to day two of the Cheltenham Festival when 18-year-old John Gleeson steered John Kiely’s A Dream To Share to a thrilling Weatherbys Champion Bumper success.
The 85-year-old Kiely has won many big races throughout a long and distinguished career in the training ranks, but one notable omission was a victory at the Festival.
He found the perfect ally to fill that void in the unbeaten five-year-old, who was bred and previously owned by ITV and RTE presenter Brian Gleeson and his wife Claire.
He headed to Prestbury Park on the back of a win at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, and with new owners, having been snapped up to run in the colours of JP McManus.
But the 7-2 chance remained the mount of the younger Gleeson who produced a ride befitting a man with much more experience than his tender years and someone experiencing the white-hot atmosphere of the Festival for the first time.
Rounding the home bend, he had Patrick Mullins and the 16-5 favourite Fact To File in his sights and it was not long before he was asking his mount for an effort – quickening smartly in the rain-sodden ground to breeze past his old rival and confirm Leopardstown form in a win to remember.
Kiely said: “I was always happy with the horse all the way through, he’s been a nice horse since day one but I was concerned about the ground today to be honest.
“I knew the horse was tip-top but I was worried about the ground so I’m delighted with the way it worked out.
“Just with the ground I worried that he’d get there too soon, but the young man was fantastic. He’s been coming in every morning to ride him. He’ll muck out and he’ll do everything, I just hope he keeps his feet on the ground now.
“I’ve been coming here since 1976 and we had the winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1993 with Shuil Ar Aghaidh (trained by his brother, Paddy).
“I’m 86 in May, I gave up riding three years ago with Covid. I’ve spent my life in racing, you never think as a youngster you’d get to be in this hallowed spot.
“This horse is named well isn’t he, they named him on Christmas day as a family, A Dream To Share, it’s lovely.”
The winning rider said: “I can’t believe how smoothly it went, to be honest. Did that just happen? I can’t believe it.
“We kind of set out to keep it simple. The ground was a bit poached everywhere, but we thought on the outside it was a bit better.
“The ground is quite holding, so we decided to take our time and he did it so well. I followed Patrick and it worked out so perfectly.
“Just to be here at the Festival, it’s unreal. To have a winner for John Kiely at the Cheltenham Festival – that man is so good to me and I can’t thank him enough. To Mr McManus as well, for letting me keep the ride, I’m very grateful.
“It’s very special. We’re a small team at home, but we try our best to get to the big stage and to win is unbelievable.
“I’ve known John for as long as I can remember and I ride this horse every day before going into school. I’ve had to park the books for a week, but it was definitely worth it!
“My mum named the horse on Christmas Day a couple of years back and my dad gets a great kick out of it.”
Gleeson senior said: “It’s tremendous. Cheltenham Festival, with your son riding, in those colours and trained by a maestro in John Kiely – it’s nearly a book!
“The horse was named by my wife Claire. We always say everything good in life is worth sharing and this horse we always thought was good.
“The dream was to have a winner at the Cheltenham Festival trained by John Kiely. He’s 86 in May and now he’s had his first Festival winner – it’s fairytale stuff.”
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