Tony Martin’s runners are always feared when making trips to England and his Belgoprince produced a devastating display in Epsom’s Betfred Nifty Fifty Amateurs’ Derby Handicap to enhance that reputation as jockey Billy Coonan enjoyed his biggest day in the saddle.
It was not a shock that one of the visitors from Ireland took home the prestigious first prize, but many expected the winner to be the John and Thomas Kiely-trained Liberated Light who was sent off the 11-4 favourite in the hands Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey John Gleeson.
However, despite travelling with supreme confidence into the home straight, Gleeson and his mount had no answer to Belgoprince who forced his way to the front in the hands of 19-year-old Coonan at the two-furlong pole and then surged clear to register an emphatic 11-length success over his fellow Irish raider at odds of 12-1.
Coonan said: “It is surreal. I came over from Ireland this morning. Tony rang me on Saturday morning saying ‘I’ve got a ride for you’. It is just great. We thought we had a bit of a chance, but I didn’t think it would be that easy.
“I wanted to get the rail, but I was one off the rail. Hitting the two (furlong pole) he was travelling so well I went to the lead. He just hit the front running so I let him go and he got the job done.
“It is massive. I’ve only ever had one winner before, so it is extra special to get one here. It means a lot.”
While Coonan’s impending university studies will take over from his duties in the saddle, he will try to keep his hand in with his riding.
Coonan added: “I had my first ride last year at the Galway Festival and I’ve been in with Tony Martin most days of the week. I’m just delighted just to get a winner for him.
“I live over in Maynooth in County Kildare and I’m going to university in September. I’m going to study commerce at the University of Galway so it will be back to the books, but I will try to ride at the same time.”