Big Weekend: The Curragh Spring Festival

Friday, May 24, 2019
Big Weekend Curragh Spring Festival

Clearys living the dream

Racing regulars will look out for a special moment in the parade ring at the Curragh tomorrow when Tom Cleary legs up his son Rory on Hillwalker in the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas (.

Cleary Snr will be saddling his first ever runner in a Group 1 race after a long training career.

It hasn’t been straightforward, and the Athlone-based handler has had to rebuild his facilities after severe flooding destroyed gallops, horse walkers, arenas and schooling strips three years ago. That forced him to move his string to the Curragh temporarily, until he managed to build his own yard back up.

It will be a poignant moment too for the family, as thoughts will surely turn to Rory’s late brother Seán, who died tragically in November 2003, following a fall in Galway.

Fittingly, Hillwalker is owned by the aptly-named Dream Big Syndicate, comprising Cleary family members and friends.

The son of Australian sire Foxwedge cost just €3,000 at the Goffs November Foal Sale in 2016. At that stage, classic glory was not on anyone’s mind but having finished fourth on debut to Decrypt, who also runs in Sunday’s feature, at the Curragh in June of last year, he bagged his maiden at Gowran Park a fortnight later.

That he hasn’t run since, after meeting with a setback, is a concern but the signals are clearly positive at home.

If Hillwalker prevails, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.


Dentistry no more if Doll delivers

It is notable that there are a number of newcomers and smaller trainers represented in the weekend classics, even apart from Tom Cleary.

Michael O’Callaghan has saddled a third-placed finisher in both the Irish 2000 and 1000 Guineas before but does not run a large operation at Crotanstown Stud and I Am Superman represents him in this year’s 2000 Guineas.

Paddy Twomey is growing his string in Athassel House and Decrypt (2000 Guineas) and Foxtrot Liv (1000 Guineas) are worthy contenders.

Dean Street Doll is Richard O’Brien’s first classic runner in the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas (4.25) on Sunday in just his third year with a trainer’s licence.

A qualified dentist, the Ballingarry, Co Limerick-based conditioner still sees patients every Saturday, and so will not be able to run the rule over Barend Boy in the Heritage Hotel & Spa Handicap (2.25) and Chessman in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes (3.00) tomorrow.

He will be at HQ 24 hours later however and should Dean Street Doll deliver the goods, one suspects that the days of drilling and filling might well be over for good for her trainer.


Oxx up and running

John Oxx secured his first winner of the season following his high-profile link-up with Group 1-winning trainer Patrick Prendergast, when Highland Dress won a three-year-old maiden very impressively at Cork on Wednesday.

It was like old times to see the Currabeg legend greet a victorious jockey (Colm O’Donoghue) donning the Godolphin blue and Highland Dress could be bound for better things. As a multiple Derby and Prix de l’Arc-winning trainer, Oxx has long proven that he knows what to do with talent.

On a weekend he harbours fond memories of, the flying filly, Ridgewood Pearl having provided him with an Irish 1000 Guineas success 24 years ago, he does not have any classic runners this time but will be hoping to record a winner during the high-profile Spring Festival.

Switzer is his representative in the Irish Stallion Famrs EBF Fillies Maiden (4.55) for two-year-olds this evening. O’Donoghue is on board Switzer, as he is on another previously-unraced juvenile, the Dandy Man colt Tootick in Sunday’s Tally-Ho Stud Irish EBF Maiden (1.50).

Perhaps his best opportunity of entering the winner’s enclosure is with Moteo in tomorrow’s FBD Hotels & Resorts Handicap (4.45). The Ballylinch Stud-owned filly didn’t run as a two-year-old but triumphed on debut at three at Leopardstown last August when under the guidance of Prendergast.

She resumed this term in Listed company and though no match for the high-class Who’s Steph, was a clear best of the rest to be second. Back in handicap company and with the very capable Andrew Slattery claiming seven pounds, the grey daughter of Teofilo could go close.

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