An Irish Leaving Cert student has landed a fairy-tale victory at Cheltenham after taking a short break from his studies to join the races.
18-year-old Waterford student John Gleeson rode the aptly-named ‘A Dream To Share’ to victory in his first-ever Cheltenham ride yesterday.
The horse, bred by his own family in Waterford, pipped strong favourite Fact to File to clinch the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and bring Day Two of The Festival to a close.
It also marked a first Cheltenham victory for trainer John Kiely who, at 85-years-old, is 67 years senior to his jockey.
Speaking to Off the Ball’s John Duggan, Gleeson said the victory was “unbelievable”.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” he said. “It was brilliant.
“It all went very smooth, you know? We set out to go wide and track one of the fancied ones and we got a lovely tow the whole way around on Patrick [Mullins] and yeah, it went to plan.”
Asked how he felt the morning of the race, he said he was, “excited really more so than nervous”.
“I was looking forward to it,” he said. “I know the horse very well and there was no pressure from Mr McManus or John or anybody.
“It was more just go out and enjoy him and that I did. It was just brilliant.”
🗣"It all went very smooth."
John Gleeson, taking a break from preparing for his Leaving Cert, talks to @JohnDugganSport after winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 15, 2023
He said the victory was extra special as the horse was trained by his own family.
“It is very special, you know, especially when you breed them,” he said.
“You’re bringing them up along and Dad and Mam are very supportive to me. It’s great they’re all here today and it’s a brilliant day.”
Gleeson said he has been working with John Kiely, “for as long as I can remember really”.
“He’s ten minutes down to the road from me and he is very good to me,” he said.
“He brought me along slowly and I did a bit of show jumping there with Louise Maloney and then I just got the bug with the racing and it just took off from there really.”
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 15, 2023
He said the victory won’t take his mind off his studies.
“Yeah I’m doing the Leaving so I took the week off the books this week,” he said.
“We’ll go back to it Monday but we’ll enjoy today first.”
The Festival continues this afternoon and you can see John Duggan’s Thursday tips here.
You can listen back to his Off The Ball Mark Your Card Special here:
LISTEN NOW https://t.co/QmAOzL4DrI
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 16, 2023