Jazzaway, with Conor McNamara on board, centre, jumps the last fence on their way to winning the Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last week. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Jazzaway joy for Offaly racing syndicate

There were huge celebrations in Ferbane and across west Offaly when the Whitegrass syndicate enjoyed a major victory at the Punchestown Racing Festival last week.

Jazzaway, owned by the syndicate with several members from Offaly, won the Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle worth a prize pot of €50,000.

Ridden by Conor McNamara and priced at 10/1, Jazzaway edged out Call Me Lyreen in a photo finish.

The syndicate was set up four years ago, with Ferbane man Liam Cullinan involved from the start, along with Ciaran Guinan (Brosna Press), Danny Gleeson (Gleeson’s pub in Ferbane), the Healys (Ambrose, Kevin, Eunan and Aidan), Gerry Hogan (H & F Windows) and Greg Dooley.

Other local members of the syndicate are Seamus Devery and Ciaran Kelly from Banagher, and Johnny and Vincent Mooney from Shannonbridge. There are also other members from different parts of the country.

“It’s the biggest win we’ve ever had,” Liam told the Offaly Independent.

“We’re lucky that racing is one of the few sports that has been given the all clear to go ahead. Of course it’s not the same as being there, but when horses are winning, they’re paying their way,” continued Liam.

The syndicate was actually due to have two runners in the race, but Getaway Gorgeous was withdrawn after unseating her jockey before the race.

“Getaway Gorgeous was beaten by a short head in Listowel last year when a similar amount of prize money was up for grabs,” Liam recalled. On this occasion, however, the Whitegrass syndicate was delighted to be on the right side of a close finish as Jazzaway pipped Jack Kennedy’s mount Call Me Lyreen.

Jazzaway is trained by the renowned Willie Mullins, who needs no introduction to horse racing followers. But Liam was also keen to praise the contribution of Gavin Lawlor from Carlow. “Gavin has done a lot of work with the horse. He pre-trains horses before they go to Willie Mullins,” he said.

Liam spoke to RTE presenter Brian Gleeson via video link from Ferbane after the race, and described the victory as “unreal”.

“Talk about the ups and downs of racing - one horse gone before the race and then we win on the bob (a bob of the heads finish),” Liam told RTE. As for the drama of the close finish, Liam said: “I just thought when they passed the line, we were beaten. It looked like one of those days we were just going to get pipped on the line but it’s brilliant.”

“I suppose the TV angle, which came as a surprise, made it a bit more special and gave it more exposure,” added Liam, who is very involved with sport in his local area. Liam is coaching officer and assistant secretary with Ferbane/Belmont Minor GAA club. He also previously managed Gallen United FC, the Ferbane-based soccer team.

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