Big Weekend: Looking ahead to racing from Naas and Punchestown


Friday, February 08, 2019
Racing from Naas and Punchestown

Ireland rugby giants’ Dundalk dream

The chances are that Racing TV’s coverage of racing at Dundalk will be getting an airing in the team hotel of the Irish rugby squad in Edinburgh tonight. Head coach Joe Schmidt is an avowed racing fan and racehorse owner. So too is back-row forward Seán O’Brien, who once owned The Tullow Tank, the Grade One winner whose name came from O’Brien’s nickname, and is member of a number of syndicates.

Syndicates have become an extremely popular way for people to get into racehorse ownership, making it more affordable but also allowing people to share in the experience with friends and colleagues.

So it is with the Rugby & Racing Syndicate set up by former Munster back Johne Murphy. Included in the membership are Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray and winger Keith Earls, and while they are sure to be focussing on getting their Six Nations campaign back on track against Scotland in Murrayfield tomorrow afternoon, they will almost certainly be keeping an eye on The Game Of Life (6.30) and Chess Grand Master (7.30), who will be wearing their syndicate’s colours this evening.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained duo have both been victorious in recent months and have big opportunities of putting Murray and Earls in a very positive frame of mind ahead of a must-win game.

 

Grand National Trial a bonanza

The BoyleSports Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (4.20) at Punchestown on Sunday is a prime target for trainers with staying chasers, the €100,000 in prizemoney on offer ensuring a quality field. Hedgehunter, Chelsea Harbour, Bonny Kate and Baie Des Isles, who runs in the Opera Hat Chase at Naas tomorrow, are former winners while the admirable Folsom Blue has been successful twice.

These are all horses with Grand National history and it is no surprise to see the likes of Don Poli, General Principle, Youcantcallherthat, Monbeg Notorious, Isleofhopendreams, Fitzhenry, Kilkishen and Dinnie’s Vinnie in the 17-runner field.

There is an added attraction apart from the prestige and prizemoney, as the winner will be offered a free entry to the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, April 22.

One notable visitor is Tom Scudamore, one of the most successful jockeys in England, who has been snapped up by Henry de Bromhead to partner the Roger Brookhouse-owned Solomn Grundy.

 

Horse to watch – Debuchet

Those who have given up on Debuchet have clearly forgotten that the French-bred son of Smadoun is just turned six and may only now be ready to deliver on the considerable talent he clearly possesses. 

Yes, it will be 674 days since his last triumph when he lines up in the first division for the Cavan Developments Maiden Hurdle (1.10) at Naas tomorrow but trainer Mags Mullins and the members of the Force Eight Syndicate have had to be patient, with the gelding suffering a couple of setbacks, and rarely having raced on the good ground connections believe he relishes.

That last win came in a Limerick bumper on April 6, 2017, just a matter of weeks after being collared close home by the brilliant Fayonagh in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper. His first bumper win came at Leopardstown, when none other than dual Grade One-winning chaser, Le Richebourg was left six lengths back in second. Little wonder Mullins professed herself to being “charmed” by her charge.

The octet that make up the syndicate comprise members from Dublin and Mayo, and if football divides them, they are united by racing. This will be Debuchet’s first run since September, so he might need it, but will appreciate the ground. Regardless, he remains one to watch for the future.

These are all horses with Grand National history and it is no surprise to see the likes of Don Poli, General Principle, Youcantcallherthat, Monbeg Notorious, Isleofhopendreams, Fitzhenry, Kilkishen and Dinnie’s Vinnie in the 17-runner field.

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