Big Weekend of racing from Punchestown, Gowran Park and The Curragh

Friday, May 03, 2019
Big Weekend May Bank Holiday Weekend

Guineas glory

Sunday’s Qipco 1000 Guineas in Newmarket offers up the opportunity of some potential feelgood stories for Irish racing.

Seven of the 15 runners are trained in Ireland but with all due respect to Aidan O’Brien’s quartet, or even Iridressa, who is trained by O’Brien’s son Joseph, it is the fate of Lady Kaya and Skitter Scatter that will have the romanticists on tenterhooks.

Lady Kaya was bought for €15,000 as a foal by Joanne Lavery, with a view to being sold at a profit as a yearling. The interest wasn’t there however, so instead, Joanne sent her into training with her aunt Sheila, who has forged a considerable reputation in a very short term, having taken out a training licence seven years ago at the age of 52.

After a 10-length maiden success at the Curragh, there were considerable offers for Lady Kaya but they have all been rejected.

Following the Group 3 triumph on her seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown last month, that decision is paying dividends and given the family’s breeding interests, Lady Kaya is already extremely valuable.

Meanwhile, the steering will be managed by Robbie Colgan, whose biggest successes prior to the 1,000 Guineas Trial had come in the Galmoy Hurdle and Troytown Chase over obstacles.

Skitter Scatter is a homebred, running in the colours of Sonia Rogers of Airlie Stud. She was handled brilliantly throughout her juvenile campaign by Patrick Prendergast, and she gave her handler his first taste of Group 1 glory in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, when Lady Kaya was back in fourth.

She improved throughout the year and her running style appeared to indicate that a mile would suit.

She now, of course, is running under the John Oxx banner, after Prendergast merged his operation with the Currabeg conditioner’s. 

Return of the Don

The Don Poli fan club will be delighted that the 10-year-old, formerly owned by Gigginstown House Stud and once trained by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, is making a quick return to Irish shores in the Boyesports Handicap Chase (3.10) at Punchestown tomorrow.

He was sold at Aintree for £170,000,prior to finishing 19th in the English Grand National behind his long-time stablemate, Tiger Roll. A winner of eight of his 20 races prior to that, a tally that included three Grade 1s and two Cheltenham Festival successes, The Don also finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, to add to his RSA Chase and Martin Pipe Hurdle triumphs around Prestbury Park.

He is now owned by Darren and Annaley Yates, while Phil Kirby is his new trainer.

This is his fourth appearance at the Irish National Hunt Festival, but he has never won, finishing second in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle five years ago, third in the Punchestown Gold Cup and fifth in the Growise Champion Novice Chase.


What next as Ruby moves on?

The succession plan was in place a long while at Closutton, so that even as Ruby Walsh surprised most people with his retirement announcement on Wednesday, champion jockey-elect Paul Townend took up the slot seamlessly with a double on his first day as Willie Mullins’s No 1 24 hours later.

What happens in behind him will be interesting. We can expect David Mullins and Danny Mullins to get more chances, while it was very interesting that Robbie Power came in for the ride on the highly exciting Chacun Pour Soi in yesterday’s Ryanair Novice Chase.

This was a reminder of course of the different dynamics of being the main man. You have to make a call and be prepared for getting it wrong, whereas as number two, the decision is usually taken out of your hands.

Tomorrow, it is also interesting to see Rachael Blackmore on board Stormy Ireland in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares’ Champion Hurdle. Townend takes the reins on Benie Des Dieux, with David Mullins getting the leg up on Good Thyne Tara.

Like Power, Blackmore has been employed successfully by Mullins before. This may be something we see more of in the future.

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