Cards now falling in Keith Donoghue’s favour

Cards now falling in Keith Donoghue’s favour
PATIENCE REWARDED: Keith Donoghue with Gordon Elliott and winning groom Jack Madden after Samcro made a successful debut over fences at Down Royal yesterday. Donoghue’s hard work and dedication has really impressed our columnist. Picture: Healy Racing

Whatever about horses going from one stable to another, for jockeys racing can be one big merry-go-round, and that was never more in evidence than it is right now.

With so many out through injury and others out of favour, it’s inevitable that opportunities will open up for others, and a jockey who has impressed in the way he has grasped his chances with both hands is Keith Donoghue.

In 2013, Roi Du Mee won the JNWine.com Champion Chase, ridden by Bryan Cooper. But that tells only half the story. Quito De La Roque was a non-runner, and that was Bryan’s intended ride in the race.

Keith Donoghue was due to ride Roi Du Mee, but when Bryan, who at the time wasn’t Gigginstown’s retained jockey but would ultimately become so, became available he was switched to Roi Du Mee.

Keith Donoghue felt very aggrieved and vented his frustration. It wasn’t the wisest move at the time, and he ended up in exile from Gigginstown for a little while. Such things can happen in any walk of life, but then he struggled with his weight — he’s a very talented rider but quite a big man.

But, his immaturity from 2013 is clearly gone because he has put his nose to the grindstone, has worked incredibly hard to manage his weight and to rebuild his career.

He was exceptionally keen to ride loads of winners, and did very well as a conditional, but he just got too big.

Even for a jump jockey, he’s a big fella and 11-4 or 5 is rock-bottom for him.

Even with that, there are still opportunities but it’s a struggle for him to keep at that weight. He’s as fit as a flea, there’s not a pick on him, it’s just his frame: He’s a naturally big build.

Much to his credit, he was worked his way back, has ridden two Cheltenham Festival winners on Tiger Roll and yesterday he rode Samcro on his debut over fences, and today, six years on from Roi De Mee, he rides Delta Work in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.

He has earned that through hard work.

His rant in 2013 didn’t help, but his ability to turn it around and determination to work hard has gotten him back to where he always wanted to be. He is playing the cards he has and it’s great to see someone who is working hard getting the rewards.

The strange part about this is: Why isn’t Davy Russell riding Delta Work?

This season, Davy has ridden 36 winners, is third in the jockeys’ list, three winners ahead of Rachael Blackmore, who rode Tintangle for Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott on Thursday.

We know Gigginstownsacked Davy Russell years ago, and have since sacked Bryan Cooper, and pretty much use the best available, but this is a strange one.

Maybe the injury to Jack Kennedy has opened the door for Donoghue, and maybeGigginstown are looking at Davy having so many commitments to so many horses that a potential clash between Delta Work and Presenting Percy has made them decide they want a different jockey.

Perhaps that’s the reason — or maybe Davy’s been flying Aer Lingus instead of Ryanair!

Jack Kennedy is having no run whatsoever.

He would have been looking at being on Samcro yesterday and looking forward to riding in the graded races, but he broke his collar bone in Punchestown. It’s not a long-term injury but it’s another nagging injury which he has had to deal with.

Denis O’Regan is also out with a fractured ankle.

He, too, is associated with the Gordon Elliott team and could have been looking at some good rides this weekend.

There are loads of jockey merry-go-rounds in Ireland. Look at Willie’s team: They’re starting to emerge for the winter season and Paul Townend will obviously have first pick, but David Mullins suffered a pretty bad injury in Thurles last week. Thankfully he’s recovering, but it leaves a window of opportunity in Willie’s.

Twelve months on from last season, I’m out of the picture, David Mullins is out for the foreseeable future, and now there will be more chances for other jockeys.

Today and tomorrow, the guys on the periphery get a chance. There are guys in that position in every yard, and for them it’s a great time of year to get the opportunities.

The racing is more high-profile and, for example, if Brian Hayes, who comes in for the ride on Cool Colonnade today and Brahma Bull tomorrow, could win on either of those, it could push him up the pecking order in Willie’s. They’re outsiders, but at least he’s on them with a chance of them winning.

One of the lads who seems to be benefiting quite a bit at the minute is Robert Power.

He has two really good jobs — with Jessica Harrington and Colin Tizzard — but neither is that big that they confine him.

Kevin Brouder, who is enjoying an incredible season, is also on the side lines. Bryan Cooper, who looked like he had turned a corner and established a link with Paul Nolan, got a fall last week at Galway and missed out on the ride on Latest Exhibition in the maiden hurdle. Rachael Blackmore stepped in for that ride. He looks a really good hurdler in the making and the type of horse that could launch Bryan’s career again.

Getaway Gorgeous will be hard to beat

Willie has a busy weekend, starting in Down Royal with Zenon in the maiden hurdle. He won’t want too much rain.

In the handicap we run four: La Sorelita, Allez Dance, Janidil, and Cool Colonnade.

The last two named have a fitness edge over the other two, but they’ve all got the potential to be better than their marks and I couldn’t swing anybody in favour of one over the others.

We have no runner in the Champion Chase but I’m a big Clan Des Obeaux fan and I think he’ll beat them.

We run Real Steel in the Grade Two second-season novice chase but, like Allez Dance and La Sorelita, they’re the first of our winter horses out so we’ll know more about where we stand after they run.

In Cork tomorrow, we run Bronagh’s Belle and Farid in the maiden hurdle but if there’s a potentially strong horse in here, it could beat both of those.

In the novice chase, we run Sayo, Dandy Mag, and Brahma Bull and all the rain that is forecast favours Sayo.

We run Blazing Tempo in the three-mile novice hurdle, and she will love the trip. Pont Aven runs in the Cork National. I’m not sure he’s that well treated but he will love the trip and is a great jumper.

Drury runs in the mares’ maiden hurdle. She’s improving all the time and should go well. Getaway Gorgeous runs in the bumper. She ran into a machine in Gowran Park, the two of them a mile clear of the rest. She will be hard to beat.

We have half the field in the November Handicap tomorrow at Naas.

Cards now falling in Keith Donoghue’s favour

It’s a €100,000 handicap and we’re pretty much running everything that qualifies. Stratum won the English Cesarewitch and will probably stay on the Flat. Buildmeupbuttercup is a dropping back in trip but I think she wants to drop even further down in trip.

We’re probably running out of ground for Diamond Hill as I can’t see her going in real winter conditions.

Ballylinch Stud mare Royal Illusion won’t be going jumping but could be a black-type filly on the Flat next year.

Saglawy will have a jumps campaign. He was too keen last time out, in the Cesarewitch at the Curragh, but hopefully he will settle better and go well this time.

Nessun Dorma was too free when well beaten at Leopardstown last week and will have to settle better, but I have a feeling there’s a big race in him.

Great White Shark will want every yard of this trip. He was a good winner of the Qualified Riders’ race at Galway and will go back jumping after this.

Legal Spin has been a frustrating horse. He stayed on well in the October Handicap last week at Leopardstown, but we’re yet to get the very best out of him.

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