Weekend Takeaways from the Fairyhouse Winter Festival

Monday, December 03, 2018
Dinnie’s Vinnie

Dinnie's Vinnie and Luke Dempsey winning the "Baroneracing Porterstown Handicap Chase" at Fairyhouse.

Dempsey’s Dinnie a Fairyhouse dish

He went off a 16/1 shot but Dinnie’s Vinnie never saw another horse as he secured a commanding victory in the Baroneracing Porterstown Handicap Chase. The 10-year-old clearly had loads left in the tank at the end of the 3m 5f test, asserting his dominance once more when challenged in the home straight to win by five and a half lengths.

It was a big win for trainer Philip Dempsey and his son Luke, who did the steering. Dempsey has invested heavily in improving the facilities at his Carbury yard and enjoyed his most fruitful season last year with 14 winners. He hasn’t started as quickly this term but this was his fourth success of the campaign and coming on such a significant day in the racing calendar will come as a considerable boost. Also, with Mr Diablo finishing runner-up in the Troytown Chase, the former jockey looks to have two contenders for all the prestigious staying chases for the rest of the campaign.

Certainly, given that it was Dinnie’s third win at Fairyhouse, it is easy to imagine him returning for the Irish Grand National, although he would probably need to record an eight career success under Rules to get into that. Given he has been victorious four times this calendar year, you couldn’t rule out this late-blooming gelding doing just that however.

It would be a return journey his owners would relish making. The TFC Syndicate comprise three members of the Beattie family in Enfield, who have been supporters of Dempsey’s for a number of years now and invariably have a strong representation, with children and grandchildren ensuring a raucous welcome for their hero. It’s what the sport is all about.


What about Joseph?

There is already a danger of taking the young Master of Owning Hill for granted. Joseph O’Brien is 25, drawing the curtain on just his third flat year as a flat trainer and in the middle of his third in the National Hunt sphere, and yet he has already saddled multiple Group and Grade 1 winners alike, including the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, Unibet Irish Gold Cup and Melbourne Cup. To date, he has conditioned 335 winners in Ireland alone and that doesn’t count the multitude he was responsible for prior to his name being on the licence.

Le Richebourg just missed out on Grade 1 glory in the Baroneracing.com Drinmore Chase but it was a standout weekend for O’Brien nonetheless. When Desir Du Large stretched away from the field in the Kettles Hotel Fingal Ravens Flat Race at Fairyhouse on Saturday under Tom Hamilton, he was sealing a four-timer for O’Brien on the card.

That was a significant achievement in itself, particularly as not one of the quartet went off as favourite to prevail. Remarkably though, it brought the young handler’s tally to nine for two days’ racing, having bagged five winners on Friday, made up of a double at Limerick and a treble under lights on the all-weather at Dundalk. Any discipline, any level, it makes no odds to the boss of Carriganóg Racing.


Orr Conor and Oisín?

Friday was a prolific day for the Orr brothers too. Donegal isn’t renowned for its production line of jockeys even though it has a strong tradition of excellence in equine pursuits generally. Conor Orr is the older sibling and he is carving out a very fine niche for himself after returning home having struggled to make an impact in England.

The Limerick card provided him with his best day in the saddle to date as he recorded a treble, with two of those provided by James Dullea and another by local trainer Austin Leahy. That gave him bragging rights over former champion apprentice Oisín, who tried hard to match his feats at Dundalk later in the evening but had to be content with recording a double.

That made it a very proud day for the family, who while they may be worried about how the two lads get on living together and doing the laundry, need have no concerns about how they are likely to fare in the saddle.


Charles Byrnes bookies again

Charles Byrnes has established a strong reputation for hitting bookmakers where it hurts, while also a proven trainer of high-class horses. Weapons Amnesty was a facile winner of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2010 but it was the redirecting of Solwhit to become a Stayers’ Hurdle victor at Prestbury Park three years later, having had the class to be a four-time Group 1 winner over two miles but found world-record Grade 1 victor Hurricane Fly an unyielding barrier to further success in that sphere, that really highlighted his shrewdness.

The Limerick-based conditioner suffered a lull in fortunes for a few years as a result of the recession but redoubled his efforts a couple of years ago with the purchase of a number of younger horses, many of which were introduced to the racecourse with a fair degree of success last season. 

It was good to see him triumphant in the €100,000 Barracing.com Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse and no surprise either to see Wonder Laish backed into 10/3 favouritism from 4/1, suggesting a fair degree of optimism about the prospects. That Davy Russell was on board only added to the confidence and Byrnes revealed afterwards that he had sounded out Gordon Elliott during the week about the possibility of his long-time ally being available.

Russell navigated the heavy traffic beautifully to take the spoils. That brought up a treble on the day for the champion jockey, who was very strong in landing Grade 1 and Grade 3 honours earlier in the day for Elliott, courtesy of Chief Justice and Delta Work. That’s how to keep everyone happy.


Certainly, given that it was Dinnie’s third win at Fairyhouse, it is easy to imagine him returning for the Irish Grand National, although he would probably need to record an eight career success under Rules to get into that.

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