Big Weekend of racing at Gowran Park and Naas

Friday, March 08, 2019
Big Weekend Gowran Park and Naas

Shane McGowan and the Leinster National

Cheltenham is almost upon us and we have a recent Cheltenham Festival winner among the 15 contenders for the €59,000 first prize on offer in the Toalsbet Bookmakers Leinster National at Naas on Sunday.

Blow By Blow gave Gordon Elliott his second consecutive triumph in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 12 months ago. He enjoyed a very good start to his chasing career, winning his beginners’ event by 17 lengths before being just touched off in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase by Some Neck. 

After two runs in Grade 1s, the son of Robin Des Champs disappointed badly in two subsequent races however, and would need to improve considerably to have any hope of prevailing.

Stablemate Dounikos is a potential favourite, coming off victory in Punchestown last month but has to give weight to the rest of the field and that could prove a stiff task.

Noel Meade’s De Name Escapes Me is an interesting runner, having been fancied to run well in handicap company at Cheltenham but spared the trip because of the weight he was going to carry. He never landed a blow in the Paddy Power Chase but was two from three before that and a repeat of his performance in the Foxrock Chase, when he was a far more comfortable victor than the half-length margin might suggest, would give him a real opportunity.

Last year’s winner, Pairofbrowneyes returns having taken the spoils on his first appearance for Willie Mullins. The 10-year-old has struggled with the resultant hike in rating and though down nine pounds from his 155 high, he is still rated nine pounds more than in 2018.

Paul Townend resumes the triumphant partnership of last year however, which suggests that with Ruby Walsh sitting it out until Tuesday, Pairofbrowneyes is the more highly regarded of the Mullins representatives.

Whoever named the Luso gelding is clearly a Pogues fan and if he makes it two-in-a-row on Sunday, there is surely only one song that can be sung in the parade ring after. Any chance of getting Shane McGowan over? 


Nallen makes advertising pay

The influence farmer John Nallen has had on the racing landscape is phenomenal, producing young horses that have flourished in others’ colours, all the while providing advertising for Nallen’s Hotel Minella in Clonmel, long after he has moved them on.

Minella Hotel and Hotel Minella were the most obvious advertisements but the Minella handle is ubiquitous. Minella For Value, Minella Foru, Minella Rocco, Minella Encore, Minella Stars and Minella Style  are just some of those that have prospered. 

There are far too many to name, as Nallen has been pinhooking for years – buying between eight and 10 foals a year and selling them on primarily as three and four-year-olds to race either in Ireland or Britain.

Patricia Hunt has had some good luck with Minella Fair, who has won three times from seven attempts on the track. The son of Flemensfirth has clearly had his issues however, with gaps of 350 and 335 days between races in the past. 

Now eight, he takes his place in the Irish Machinery Auctions Beginners Chase (4.15) at Gowran Park tomorrow. It will not just be his first run over fences, but his first run of any nature since hosing home by 62 lengths in a novice hurdle at Clonmel on March 20, 2018. If he retains his class though, he will have a significant chance.


Patriot to keep it in the family?

The most valuable race in tomorrow’s Gowran Park card is the Holden Plant Rentals Shamrock Handicap Chase. The sponsors, Paul and Catherine Holden are well known supporters of horse racing, with some quality horses between them in recent years.

They run in separate colours and these days are trained by their daughter Ellmarie, who has done an excellent job since taking out her licence in 2016. She recorded 12 winners in Ireland that first season and repeated the feat last term.

The current campaign has been a bit more difficult but she has had considerably less runners than either of the last two terms and matching the 22 per cent strike rate of 2017-2018 was always going to be a tall order.

While one of her stable stars, Abolitionist has been sold to England with a view to running in the Aintree Grand National – and as a previous winner of the aforementioned Leinster National he will be among the fancies – Ex Patriot is still a flagship operator.

Fourth in the Triumph Hurdle in 2017 despite getting rid of Rachael Blackmore on the way down to the start, he was a bit slow to get his head in front over fences, but there was a lot to like about his battling effort to get the better of Benruben in a beginners chase at Thurles last month. Benruben was the nearest challenger to Jetz in a Grade 3 novice chase on his next run, which boosts the form.


So it is Ex Patriot, who runs for Paul, that is entrusted with the task of winning at least some of the sponsors’ money back, though with Doctor Phoenix having run his best race in some time against Cadmimum in a Grade 3 chase recently, he won’t have it all his own way, even with a 12lbs advantage at the weights.

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