Race of the Week 1
This may seem an insane exercise on Dublin
Racing Festival weekend, with €1.8m in prizemoney on offer, and a programme at
Leopardstown that includes eight Grade One events. It is hard to argue against
the focus on Apple’s Jade in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, Min in
the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, La Richebourg in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle
Chase, Road To Respect in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup and the significant challengers
they will face.
However, the Tattersalls Ireland Spring
Juvenile Hurdle looks as packed with potential champions as any juvenile or
novice event we are likely to see this season. At least six of the 11
contenders appear to have big shouts and what is intriguing is that three pairs
comprising that sextet have already crossed swords.
Only a short head separated the Gordon
Elliott stablemates Coeur Sublime (2nd) and Chief Justice (2st) in a
Grade Three contest at Fairyhouse on December 2, Joseph O’Brien’s Sir Erec just
prevailed by a neck after a thrilling duel with the Willie Mullins-prepped Tiger
Tap Tap on December 27, and the Elliott-trained Surin had a nose to spare over O’Brien’s
Gardens Of Babylon at Fairyhouse on January 12.
That makes separating them very difficult
indeed. We’ll know a lot more afterwards but whoever lands the €73,750 for
connections will definitely have earned it.
Race of the Week 2
The Flogas Novice Chase contains three
horses that have won Grade Ones over the larger obstacles already this year.
Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work was very impressive in bagging two of them in
December, his stablemate Hardline was Limerick’s inaugural Grade One victor at
Christmas, while welcome overseas raider, the Warren Greatrex-trained mare La
Bague Au Roi has been successful taking on the geldings, most recently
attaining top-tier glory at Kempton on King George day.
The progressive Winter Escape has to be
thrown into the mix too, effortlessly prevailing on his last three starts, the
latter two in graded class, and advertising the talents of Curragh trainer,
Anthony Howard in the process.
It is also interesting to see Jack Doyle,
who has established himself as one of the leading jockeys in America for a
number of years now, making a very rare appearance on his native soil. It is
sure to be a special day as he rides in a Grade One contest for his father, the
point-to-point master, Pat Doyle.
The winner of major handicaps on his last
two runs, Kaiser Black is stepping up considerably in class but taking on the
big boys on the biggest stage won’t hold any fears for the Suirview Stables
Auction series spin-offs
The emergence of the auction series of
races sponsored by Irish EBF, Foran Equine (Flat) and Connolly’s Red Mills (NH)
for more affordable horses has proven a boon for trainers and owners, and it is
no surprise they have been widely welcomed. As they evolve, the hope is that
they contribute to the positive trend of increase in new owners and horses in
training, as illustrated in this week’s industry statistics released by Horse
The significant rise in the number of syndicates
in particular has added an energy to parade rings and it is easy to recall the
celebrations when the Patrick Prendergast-trained Cedars Of Lebanon won the
final of the Foran Equine Irish EBF Auction Series at Naas in October. The
€11,000 purchase netted €70,800 for that victory alone and there was a further
windfall when she was sold to race in America.
The Big Dog was triumphant in the Red Mills
Auction Maiden Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thyestes Chase day, taking the spoils
easily despite a bad blunder at the last. He has the final of this series to
look forward to now at the Punchestown Festival, but in the meantime, trainer
Peter Fahey has been emboldened enough by that performance to aim the strapping
Mahler gelding bought for €28,000 at the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy &
Partners Solicitors €50,000 Cheltenham Bonus for Stable Staff Novice Hurdle.
It’s the stuff of dreams for the Kellys who own The Big Dog, Damien and Colin.
The Big Dog also holds an entry in the
Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdles at Cheltenham and with the
sponsors offering that €50,000 bonus for stable staff of the victor, if he or
she goes on to be victorious in any race at the March festival, the Fahey team will
be completely invested!
You don’t always have to spend lavishly to
have a chance.