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Burke’s ‘dream come true’ in Land Rover Bumper

Irish Amateur jockey Johnny Burke enjoyed the biggest success of his fledgling career on Tuesday evening at the Punchestown Festival, steering the Willie Mullins trained Very Much So to an impressive victory in the prestigious Goff Land Rover Bumper.

Mullins’s son Patrick had made the decision to partner warm favourite Native Dream for Nicky Henderson in the race that has uncovered some top quality horses in the past, leaving the door open for 18 year old Burke to take the ride on the Champion trainer’s only runner in the contest. In the end the jolly could never get into the race however and Burke, using just hands and heels, drove home his charge in impressive fashion to score by 3/4 length.

“It’s a dream come through to win such a big race especially at the Punchestown Festival,” the delighted jockey said afterwards.

“I ride out a couple of days a week at Willie’s and I am very thankful that he gave me this wonderful opportunity.”

Burke was born into a family steeped in national hunt racing, with his father Liam being one of the country’s most respected trainers and since the young jockey finished school last summer things have been going pleasingly well for him.

“I have had a few rides inside the rails for Noel Meade which I am delighted with. I go up and ride out one day a week for Mr Meade and the experience that I am getting is second to none.

“Liz Doyle has been very kind to me this year. She supplied me with my first winner over hurdles and my first winner against professionals.”

Burke was also lucky enough to be able to hone his skills around the World last year in the Fergentri Series, a challenge he is very much looking forward to again this year.

“I signed up last year to represent Ireland in the World Champion of Gentleman riders. So far I have ridden in races in Qatar where I finished second and third as well as France and Germany.

“Once the Punchestown Festival is over the series will take off again. It’s an opportunity to gain more valuable race riding experience.”

The 18 year old will also continue to ride on the Irish Point to Point scene, for which he has become a highly sought after talent, particularly as he still holds a valuable 5lb claim.

“I have had a lot of rides this year between the flags. I have two more winners to ride before I lose my 5lb claim. In Ireland you have a 5lb claim until you ride 20 winners.

“My plan for the foreseeable future is to keep improving, experience is a big thing for me, and I just need to get as much of it as I possibly can.

“Good horses make good jockeys so it’s all about getting on the better class of race horse.

“Following yesterday’s win I am considering turning conditional after Punchestown. My dad will advise me what the best thing is for me to do.”

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