There was a fairytale finale to day two as Leaving Certificate student John Gleeson made his first Cheltenham ride a winning one to provide legendary Waterford trainer John Kiely with his maiden Festival winner on the aptly-named A Dream To Share (7/2).
leeson was granted permission by St Augustine’s College in Dungarvan to take time out of his studies and head to the Cotswolds this week, with the 18-year-old giving his classmates and punters plenty to cheer about with an ice-cool ride to take the Champion Bumper.
The winner, formerly owned by RTÉ racing presenter Brian Gleeson and his wife Claire (John’s parents), sported the famous JP McManus silks, having been purchased privately by the Limerick owner for a significant wedge after his stunning Leopardstown success last month.
For 85-year-old Kiely, success was the culmination of a lifetime in racing with a gaping hole in his training CV now filled after a one-and-one-quarter length victory over the Willie Mullins-trained Fact To File (16/5 favourite), also in the McManus green and gold colours.
There were extraordinary scenes in a thronged winner’s enclosure as the student and his master combined for a Festival success that will live long in the memory, with A Dream To Share a real exciting prospect.
“I was always happy with the horse all the way through, he’s been a nice horse since day oney, but I was concerned about the ground today,” said the veteran trainer.
“I knew the horse was tip-top, but 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.”
As for the rider, the delighted teenager said: “I can’t believe how smoothly it went, to be honest. Did that just happen? I can’t believe it.
“We 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. I ride this horse every day before going to school. I’ve had to park the books for a week, but it was definitely worth it!”