Big Weekend: Racing from Cork and the first Grade 1 of 2019 in Naas on Sunday

Friday, January 04, 2019
Big Weekend 1st Grade 1 of 2019

Race of the weekend

The Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle (1.50) is a Grade 1 contest in name and substance. It might be reasonable to expect a slight lull in proceedings after the drama of the Christmas period but this being a two-and-a-half-mile contest, it has attracted a stellar field, with novices not catered for at this grade at the intermediate trip during the Festive season.


The nine participants have won 18 races between them already under NH Rules, 12 of them coming this season. So there is real depth to the affair, with those coming directly from their maiden hurdle successes entitled to be asked the next, more searching question, while others have already had a go at graded level.


One of the nine will break new ground on Sunday but it isn’t in any way outlandish to state with assurance that a number of these will triumph at some pattern level. It would be a shock if more than the Naas victor doesn’t become a Grade 1 winner.


Right now, they are all about potential, with most of them very inexperienced yet apart from Getareason, the Willie Mullins-trained dual winner that has run nine times since making his debut in a Downpatrick bumper in March, and most recently finished a very good second to Easy Game in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle three weeks ago.


Mullins is also represented by Tornado Flyer and Come To Me. Gordon Elliott has two participants, with Noel Meade, Joseph O’Brien, Jessica Harrington and Mouse Morris completing the field.


Favouritism is likely to be contested by Tornado Flyer, the Champion Bumper winner at Punchestown in April who came through his maiden hurdle impressively, and Battleoverdoyen, the point-to-point graduate (via Jerry Cosgrave) that was purchased by Gordon Elliott for Gigginstown House Stud and has been ultra-impressive in his only two racecourse appearances.


Whoever wins, will be very good indeed.




Jockey to watch 1 – Andrew Lynch


It will be great to see Andrew Lynch back in action at Cork tomorrow. With a long-established reputation as one of the hardest-working jockeys in the weigh room, the Meath man has endured some bad injuries over the years and makes his return after a six-week absence as a result of fracturing thoracic vertebrae.


Missing out on Christmas would have stung and he also had to look on as the likes of Castlegrace Paddy won Cork’s Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase, with Paul Townend stepping into the plate, earlier in December.


It tells you all you need to know about Lynch, a man who has recorded 20 Grade 1 successes and been associated with the likes of Sizing Europe, Flemenstar, Voler La Vedette and Notre Pere among others, that his four assignments over the weekend are provided by four different trainers. Few jockeys clock up more miles than Lynch in the willingness to work or school a horse and that industry pays dividends in terms of employment.


So Tom Mullins (Lucky Icon), Terence O’Brien (Ballyadam Destiny) and Norman Lee (Johnny Girl) are utilising his talents tomorrow, while Declan Queally calls on him to resume his regular partnership with the likeable mare Tell Me Annie at Naas on Sunday. It would be lovely he could notch up a winner on his comeback but his phone will continue to ring regardless.




Jockey to watch 2 – Seán McDermott


Seán McDermott might not be familiar to a lot of the racing public because for the last five years, he has only been riding in Ireland for a couple of months during the winter. McDermott is now based in America, along with a number of other Irish jockeys including Ross Geraghty, Jack Doyle, Willie McCarthy and Darren Nagle.


The Kerry native has enjoyed a lot of success, with the Grade 1 Iroquois Hurdle on the former Eugene O’Sullivan Kildorrery point-to-point winner Scorpiancer, close to the summit of his achievements.


He has made the trips home pay off in the past, including winning at Leopardstown in Christmas 2017 on the Tom Mullins-trained Sparky Stowaway. Indeed, it is a notable feat that despite riding primarily across the Atlantic in recent years, he has still managed to record at least one triumph on home turn for 19 seasons running.


One imagines that he would love to extend that to 20. Gavin Cromwell provides him with a chance on Brisk Tempo at Cork tomorrow, while Gerard Keane will give him the leg up on Howaya Aoife at Naas. 


The Kerry native has enjoyed a lot of success, with the Grade 1 Iroquois Hurdle on the former Eugene O’Sullivan Kildorrery point-to-point winner Scorpiancer, close to the summit of his achievements.


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