Horse Racing Ireland has taken plenty of stick over many years, but you have to praise the bridge as you cross it and there is no doubt their recent handling of Irish racing, in the face of this cursed coronavirus, has been nothing short of exemplary.
They are joined by a host of others who might otherwise have been heading to Aintree at the start of next month – including several British hopefuls, despite the fact horses are currently not permitted to travel from overseas to race in Ireland.
Willie Mullins waited a long time to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, having finally got his hands on the prize he craved most last year, he was again the toast of Prestbury Park today after 100-30 favourite Al Boum Photo provided another picture-perfect moment.
After a sluggish start to the Festival, Willie Mullins’ team found stride late on Wednesday, upped the pace with a double on Thursday, and when Monkfish edged out compatriots Latest Exhibition and Fury Road in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, it was a third on the day and a sixth in total for the Closutton maestro.
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.
We’re three weeks and around four hours removed from the flag dropping to announce the commencement of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Gordon Elliott, who will hope to win it with Abacadabras, is in top form.
Official handicapper Martin Greenwood is looking forward to what he described as arguably the “highest-quality” Grand National in years after making Tiger Roll and stablemate Delta Work joint top-weight on 11st 10lb for the Aintree spectacular.
Willie Mullins has had many great days in racing but, as he debriefed the media in a packed winner’s enclosure, it was hard to escape the sense that few meant quite as much to Ireland’s champion trainer as Faugheen’s epic victory in the Flogas Novice Chase on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival.