Pat O'Donnell welcomes his daughter Sylvia after the success of the Ladies Derby at the Curragh

‘I’m emotionally exhausted more than anything – it was fairytale stuff’ | Horse racing news

Caroline Norris

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Pat O’Donnell welcomes his daughter Sylvia after the success of the Ladies Derby at the Curragh

Caroline Norris

By Brian Dowling

A Cheltenham Festival winner would normally be the pinnacle of any coach’s career, but for Pat O’Donnell, Saturday’s family success with Extensio in the Ladies Derby at the Curragh could be just a little more special as it gave daughter Sylvia her first ever winner.

O’Donnell saddled Chance Coffey under Gerry O’Neill to win the Coral Cup in 1995, but the Limerick manager described Saturday’s win as a fairy tale as he watched his daughter run half-length on the family estate located and trained gelding won.

The Xtension son was in fine form for O’Donnell last season, including a win at Tipperary, and although he wasn’t in the same shape this season he showed his best under his rider’s 7-pound claim, to capture the middle of the track and land the loot, triggering cheering scenes in the winner’s pen.

O’Donnell said, “It was fairy tale stuff. When you get home and the dust has settled, you’re a little self-aware. It was a very emotional day. I’m emotionally drained more than anything.

“It was something special. Sylvia had people cheering her on before she went out, not to mention the chaos when we came back.

“I had to train her a bit and you’ll find she has tremendous balance. For me as a student she really got the gist of what is required and they need to gain racing experience.

Caroline Norris

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Extensio (right): a first winner for Sylvia O'Donnell

Extensio (right): a first winner for Sylvia O’Donnell

Caroline Norris

While his exploits at Cheltenham are among his finest, O’Donnell admits Saturday’s exploits perhaps eclipsed that memorable day at Prestbury Park.

“Family is everything and anyone who has a daughter would understand that. Both of my kids are in the industry and what Saturday brought was just something special. It will be hard to beat,” he added.

It’s been hard for O’Donnell to find winners as Extensio gave the manager his first win of the season and just his fifth in the last five years, but he’s not lacking in confidence and a potential tilt in Galway is now in sight down the pipeline .

“We were confident we had a real horse when we got this boy and it was all a matter of executing a plan,” he said.

“Certainly it’s difficult enough at our level to make it, but we don’t lack the confidence to try and fortunately it paid off.”

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