This weekends action: This weekend racing on this island does not start until Friday at Dundalk with a start on the all weather surface. Saturday, St Patrick’s Day, sees racing taking place at Wexford at 2.20 pm, and Down Royal at 1.35 pm, both national cards. There’s racing on Sunday at Proudstown Park in Navan and at Greenmount in Limerick, where there will be a meeting again on Monday starting at 2.10 pm.
Day 1 : In the opening The Supreme Novices Hurdle Duncan McCain trained Cinders And Ashes to win from Darlan with the gambled on Irish horse Trifolium from Gigginstown trained by Charles Byrnes and ridden by Davy Russell back in 3rd.
The hot favourite, Hurricane Fly, came unstuck in the Champion Hurdle finishing a disappointing 3rd behind last year’s runner-up Rock On Ruby with the dual purpose Overturn 3rd.
The Irish lost the Glenfarclas Handicap Cross Country Chase at the festival for the first time as Balthazar King beat Michael Hourigan’s A New Story by a head with Wedger Pardy 3rd and Sizing Australia 4th. A sad end to ther race which claimed the lives of Willie Mullins’ Scotsirish and Enda Bolger's Garde Champetre.
Both the short-priced favourites given last week as horses for multiple bets won. Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle and Quevega retained her title in the Mares Hurdle Race. Quevega, winning for the 4th year in a row at the Festival, was the only Irish winner of day 1 for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
After day 1 it is not as good as last year when advantage to England was 4 to Ireland 3 – this year it was 6 to 1.
The punters got off to a great start on Wednesday when the first two favourites obliged with Teatforthree winning the Nation Hunt Chase under J T McNamara at 5/1 followed by a lot of punters’ banker for the week, Simonsig, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty at odds of 2/1 (having been backed in from 5/2).
In the third Bobsworth, who won the Albert Bartlett last year, gave Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson a double beating the Gigginstown owned First Lieutenant trained by Mouse Morris, winner of the Neptune on this day last year. The short priced favourite Grand Cru faded to a disappointing 4th as Call the police finished 3rd.
In the Champion Chase Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson completed a treble when Finian’s Rainbow accounted for Irish hot pot Sizing Europe. Big Zeb finished 3rd.
The Old Boys appeared to circle the wagons yesterday (Wednesday) as there was a monumental cock-up at the last when the jockeys did not get sufficient or clear warning that it was not to be jumped and it was only due to some brilliant horsemanship by both Barry Geraghty and Andrew Lynch that a very serious incident was averted. The reaction of the clerk of the BHA Head of Stewarding Mr William Munnelly was that everything was in order and that the jockeys could not see the flag as they were riding a close race. If this happened in a point to point here, where Orange discs placed in front of a fence taken out in racing, there would be hell to play where all jump stewards are volunteers. At Cheltenham they use white boards with chevrons to doll off a fence. There were three such boards put across the fence but all were moved the inside which made it was difficult for the jockeys to know that the fence was in fact dolled off.
I doubt if the stewards at Cheltenham are amateur and the old boys did not even hold an enquiry. That the Stewards of Racing did not see any reason to hold a stewards inquiry, unbelievable. There will be a meeting in a few weeks time and changes will be made – just like the whip controversy.
Donald McCain and Jason Maguire followed up their win earlier in the week with Son Of Flika who won the Coral Cup by from the eternal 2nd, runner-up for the 3rd year in succession at the festival, Get Me Out Of Here. The winner was an old fashioned handicap touch having come in from 66/1 morning price to 16/1 starting price.
Nicky Henderson completed a 4-timer in the penultimate Fred Winter with Une Artiste who was ridden by Jerry McGrath and not Barry Geraghty who opted for stable mate Soliwery who pulled up. Another Irish second was Tony Martin’s Edeyme 2nd and the well fancied Vendor was 3rd.
The bumper returned to Willie Mullin’s yard after a gap of when Champagne Fever, under a strong ride from son Patrick, beat New Year’s Eve, thus depriving Barry Geraghty of a 4 timer.
The Irish did have a double at Prestbury Park when Margaret Connolly from Mullingar won the best dressed Lady Competition on her 7th visit to the Cotswolds.
At the half way mark England lead Ireland 12 wins to 2.
This (Thursday) is the quietest day of the week, if there is one, and the feature is the World Hurdle over three miles. Big Bucks is hot favourite to repeat his win in this race for the last three years and his 17th win in a row on all tracks. Remenber both champions Hurricane Fly and Sizing Europe have both failed to retain their titles.
A winner at Stratford on Monday Imperial Shabra trained in Monaghan by the ebullient Oliver Brady, who unfortunately will not be present, could run into a place at very generous odds in the opening Novice Chase. Best wishes to Oliver for a speedy return to the scene.
Timmy Murphy rides the David Pipe Our Father who is a warm order in the Pertemps but Dermot Weld’s Prince Erik, off 10-6, will be there or thereabouts at the end of the three miles and is value at 16/1 for 4 places with jockey in form Davy Condon on his back.
The Grade 1 Ryanair Chase is wide open and punters can revert to the old fashioned method of the pin and hope for the best. Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince looks the best of the Irish and has to bring a run of 3 2nd‘s to an end.
Georgio Quercus representing the Geraghty/Henderson combination looks value at 25/1 in the penultimate Plate Handicap Chase.
The last, the Fluke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase for amateur riders is wide open and at a recent point to point there was serious talk about Frontier Spirit the mount of Chris Cully
The holder of the Gold Cup Long Run is favourite to retain his crown with Kauto Star 2nd favourite to regain the title. In what looks a two-horse race my head overrules my heart and it’s Long Run to win again.
The Irish have a reasonable record in the Foxhunters and provide runners who are all fancied. Not Before Eight trained in Fermanagh at Derrylin by David Christie will be held up for a late run by regular partner Barry O’Neill and is good value e/w at 25/1 as I write.
Point to Point Action
On St Patrick’s Day there is no meeting in the north as racing takes place at Down Royal and The Ward Union step into the breach with their meeting at Folly, Oldtown in North Dublin at 1.30 pm.
On Sunday three venues host racing at Lismore in Waterford first off at 1.00, Ballyraggert in Kilkenny at 1.30, and finally at Tralee in Co Kerry first away at 2.00 pm.
Last weekend Barry O’Neill rode a brace of winners at Lingstown on Carrig More Annie for Michael Cullen in the mares maiden and Lord Of Drums for Denis Murphy in the geldings maiden cutting Derek O’Connor’s lead to 20. Derek O’Connor was a spectator at Belclare and will be back so lads you better get a move on if you have any designs on his title.
Champion lady rider Liz Lalor is not going to give up her title easily and rode a double at Horse and Jockey bringing her total to 4 and cutting Katie Walsh’s lead in the title race to 4.