History has proven the Festival to be a ruthless environment where only the toughest, most talented survive. This week will be no different. Some hotpots will enhance already lofty reputations while, for others, the bubble will burst. As ever, the challenge is what to trust and what to oppose, writesmakes his picks.
Corky Browne left Carrigtwohill for a life in racing, working with legendary trainer Fred Winter, in England, before forging a glorious partnership with five-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson. Browne announced his retirement, at 77, last week, ending a 62-year association with the sport.
At the 11th hour we switched Klassical Dream back to the Supreme and he’ll be my first ride of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. We had contemplated going up in trip with him after his win at the Dublin Racing Festival in Leopardstown but with the ground slowing and looking at the opposition – Felix Desjy will more than likely make it a strongly-run race – we thought this would be the right race for him.
Kayley Woollacott was widowed at 31 when her husband Richard finally lost his long battle with depression last year. She was left with a young daughter, a racing stable and two options. Fight or flight. She chose the former and has dealt the sort of grief that could crush a lesser mortal in a remarkably robust and positive way. She has embraced the legacy of her husband’s death to publicise the need for dialogue on men’s mental health while at the same time raising significant funds for charities working in the field.
It would be quite a stretch to suggest Buveur D’air’s eclipse in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton opened the door for would-be takers of his Champion Hurdle crown, but Samcro all but stepped out of the running for that distinction with another disappointing display, this time behind Sharjah in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on Saturday afternoon in Leopardstown.
With the ground the way it is, this is going to be another quiet weekend for the stable. There was rain due yesterday evening, more today and by tomorrow we could even be thinking we should have had more runners declared but, as it stands, the ground at Fairyhouse and Navan is too dry.