Weekend Takeaways from Longines Irish Champions Weekend

Monday, September 16, 2019
Johnny Murtagh, Josept O'Brien, Paul Carberry, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan, Richard Hughes, Ted Durkan, Kieran Fallon, 'Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland Race' at the Curragh - Alain B

Johnny Murtagh, Josept O'Brien, Paul Carberry, Ruby Walsh, Charlie Swan, Richard Hughes, Ted Durkan, Kieran Fallon, "Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland Race" at the Curragh - Alain Barr - 15.09.2019

Racing, take a bow

Self-congratulation always comes across a bit naff but the entire racing community is entitled to clap itself on the back after the extraordinary scenes at the Curragh yesterday. It was fantastic to see the renovated Home of the Classics heaving and while the four Group 1s were an obvious attraction, the appearance of nine legendary jockeys in the Pat Smullen Champions Race for CancerTrials Ireland was a major draw.

That AP McCoy would claim his first Curragh triumph on board the Sheila Lavery-trained Quizical, beating off his great friend and long-time rival Ruby Walsh (on Aussie Valentine) in the process, was a great result, and Lavery spoke eloquently afterwards about her depth of feeling for Smullen.

This was at the core of the turnout and at the core of the spectacular money that has been raised. Privately, Smullen, his wife France and their team of organisers had been hoping to raise what would have been a staggering €1m from the variety of events but reports last evening were that this lofty target had been overhauled to a significant degree.

Pat kept saying that every penny counted and while some of the huge donations are obviously vital, it is the selflessness of ordinary people that will live in the memory. Social media in particular became a force for good and you had stable staff and jockeys pledging their weekend’s fees/prizes or making donations. Trainers Ger Lyons and Johnny Murtagh combined to raise €20,000 (and counting) from a fun-filled but vital campaign. 

This was a mobilisation like never seen before and that was down to Pat Smullen – the ultimate force for good. 

It was fitting that his employers past and present, Dermot Weld and Moyglare Stud combined with Chris Hayes, who began the trend of jockeys donating their riding fees, for Search For A Song to bag a stunning success in the Comer Group Irish St Leger, a race Smullen won himself four times on Vinnie Roe.


Ado and Matthew at it again

It has been a season to remember for Ado McGuinness, as the Hayestown House trainer maintains the progression of a career that has been a watchword for improvement since turning his hand to thoroughbreds after a career in show jumping.

When the Lusk handler saddled Current Option to prevail in the €150,000 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Sovereign Path Handicap at Leopardstown on Saturday, it was his 17th winner of the season. That is his best tally to date and it has been achieved with 41 less runners than when registering 16 last term.

Even better, the prizemoney garnered is €150,000 up on the 2018 PB, at €434,698. That was helped by Saltonstall finishing a gallant third in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Northfields Handicap yesterday, the five-year-old already having made significant contributions to the pot when taking the spoils in the Colm Quinn BMW Mile at Galway in July.

Mention of the Northfields Handicap brings us to another who enjoyed Galway, the Matthew Smith-trained One Cool Poet. The hero of the last Ballybrit festival, where he was a three-time victor, made light of a failed venture on Saturday to come with his now customary withering late run under the in-form Billy Lee to claim the €88,500 first prize on offer for the DRFG Partnership.


Magical weekend for Ballydoyle

For all that Aidan O’Brien has been breaking records from the time he took out a training licence, Longines Irish Champions Weekend has not proven as bountiful as most observers predicted for the primary training centre on these shores. That isn’t to say the master of Ballydoyle hasn’t enjoyed the taste of success over the two days but he certainly hasn’t dominated.

There was a good spread of winners throughout the weekend once more, the cross-channel visitors left with plenty of the spoils too, and the likes of McGuinness and Smith got a share of the significant pot, but O’Brien took more garlands than anyone else with a four-timer on Saturday and a double yesterday.

Magical was undoubtedly the highlight in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, while Love and Fairyland added to the Group 1 honours in the Moyglare Stud and Flying Five Stakes at HQ. Norway, Mogul and Blissful added to the win column and the general form of the string augurs well for the rest of the season.


Lovely Listowel

Another hugely successful Harvest Festival came to a conclusion on Saturday. Joseph O’Brien claimed the opening John Lynch Memorial Maiden Hurdle with Winner Takes Itall and would later seal a cross-card double with the Group 1 triumph of Iridressa In the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. In all, O'Brien saddled four winners at the Kerry venue.

The Kingdom’s footballers were unable to derail Dublin’s Drive for Five, and the first drawn encounter prevented Kerry midfielder David Moran carrying out the driving duties he normally attends to for the best dressed lady on the traditional Friday Ladies’ DAy, but it was a phenomenal week for the community nonetheless.

Rachael Blackmore, Henry de Bromhead and Robcour took the week’s major prize courtesy of Poker Party in the Guinness Kerry National. It was Blackmore’s first win in the south west. You wouldn’t expect it to be her last.

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