Weekend Takeaways from the Christmas Racing Festivals

Monday, December 31, 2018
Supreme Racing Club.

The presentation to The Supreme Horse Racing Club, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh after Aramon had won The Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle

Supreme week for racing club

Supreme Racing Club have long been in the vanguard for racing clubs and syndicates and they provided the best possible advertisement for the most accessible route to racehorse ownership when enjoying Grade 1 success on the double at Leopardstown during the Christmas Festival.

The 71 races run over four days at Leopardstown, Limerick and Down Royal were won by 47 different owners, and nine of those came from syndicates, partnerships or racing clubs.

When Aramon hacked up in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle, the celebrations were raucous as the Supreme contingent were out in force and considering the possibility of success in the opener at Cheltenham in March with which they share a name.

Kemboy’s similarly effortless bound to glory in the Savills Chase saw him catapulted into the Gold Cup picture and needless to say, the parade ring was a sea of exultant cheering after that too. Indeed having a group to share the experience with is another attraction of this type of ownership model, quite apart from the relative affordability.

Supreme Racing have known phenomenal success, initially thanks to an astute policy of leasing mares from breeders and linking up with champion trainer Willie Mullins. They have branched out into outright ownership in recent years, with a view to targeting higher-grade victories. It is a policy that has paid dividends, with the dreams of much more to come. 


All roads lead to Dublin Racing Festival

Generally, the various divisions of National Hunt racing begin to take shape after the Christmas period but after the most recent festive programme, we were left with more questions, rather than too many existing ones being answered.

Everywhere you turned a hot favourite was beaten and a new contender announced itself. One has to imagine that the unseasonable weather and ground conditions prevailing at this time has had some sort of impact, and that there is improvement to be found in many horses right now.

That is why the Dublin Racing Festival can’t come quick enough. With seven Grade One races, it is a jewel in the jump racing calendar but the secret to why it had such an immediately positive impact last year was its place in the calendar, between Christmas and Cheltenham. 

Trainers have had to deal with completely new circumstances this term and are literally learning on the hoof. Even the very best were surprised by how undercooked some of their charges might have been and work is sure to be stepped up significantly, although they are crying out for more rain to facilitate that.

Remarkably, the likes of Presenting Percy, Laurina and Penhill almost had their claims for major Cheltenham honours strengthened by not competing but while the latter garnered the Stayers’ Hurdle last March on his seasonal debut, it is certainly not the ideal route and definitely not the way Pat Kelly or Willie Mullins would like to target a Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle.

All of which makes the Unibet Irish Gold and BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle in particular intriguing prospects. And we know that the leading trainers and owners have plenty of novices to unleash yet too. The countdown to DRF is on.


Farewell, not goodbye, to The Doc

Pat Smullen almost stole the show by his appearance at Leopardstown on Saturday, but in the end, no-one lost sight of who the guest of honour was.

Smullen, who is continuing his recovery from treatment for pancreatic cancer, was in attendance to pay tribute to the great Dr Adrian McGoldrick, retiring as IHRB senior medical officer.

Known to everyone in the weigh room as The Doc, McGoldrick is a hero among jockeys and oversaw a complete overhaul in safety standards for jockeys during his tenure.

He has a very high-class successor in Jennifer Pugh, who is well known in racing circles, not just as a racecourse doctor since joining IHRB in 2012, but as a point-to-point jockey. 

Adrian will not be lost to racing though. Indeed, as a GP in Newbridge, many of the industry’s protagonists deal directly with him anyway. And those that were comfortable with calling him at any hour of the day or night – a practice he encouraged – will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Meanwhile, his passion for improving the lot of the jockeys, in terms of safety and health, will continue, via lobbying and research, particularly in the areas of concussion, helmets, back protectors and mental health. 

His contribution to a better, safer working environment for jockeys especially will never be forgotten but he’s not done yet.


Known to everyone in the weigh room as The Doc, McGoldrick is a hero among jockeys and oversaw a complete overhaul in safety standards for jockeys during his tenure.