THERE were a couple of races at Killarney during the week which emphasised the skills of two trainers, Tony Martin and Charles Byrnes.
On Sunday, Martin’s Sensational Sema landed a minor touch in a handicap hurdle and you would have to say it represented a classic piece of planning.
The seven-year-old had run just five times on the track and shown little or nothing. Disappointing, you might argue, for a horse who had won his only point-to-point, when going off a hot favourite!
The test for any trainer, of course, is to do the best he can for all of his horses, whether they are potential Gold Cup winners, or low-grade handicappers.
And it is that ability to assess their charges at an early stage which sets the likes of Martin and Byrnes apart from many of their fellow trainers.
Sensational Sema ran four times over two miles and once at two miles and three and, looking at him winning at Killarney, it was glaringly obvious he would struggle to score over shorter trips.
Martin clearly knew this and gave Sensational Seems his final outing, prior to Killarney, over two miles at Gowran Park on March 5. He trailed in 13th of 19 finishers.
But fast-forward to Killarney and getting what was needed most, a proper test of stamina over two miles and six, we saw a different animal entirely.
That race at Gowran was the horse’s first venture into handicap company and he ran off a mark of 105. The handicapper then dropped him 2lbs.
And that 2lbs may well have been the difference between victory and defeat. Sensational Sema had to get a power-packed drive from Ruby Walsh to score by half a length and the 6-1 to 9-2 business was completed.
In the greater scheme of things it was no big deal, but for the lads from Bellaghy in Derry, who own the horse and had made their way to Kerry, it was hugely important. If they decide to have another beastie guess where it will end up?
At Killarney as well on Sunday, Byrnes’ Scottish Boogie, a three-time winner on the flat in England for Sylvester Kirk, justified strong market support in a maiden hurdle.
He went there having had four runs over hurdles in Ireland. Scottish Boogie could not be mapped in the first three, but then in the fourth outing hinted his time might be coming.
At Limerick on April 3, Scottish Boogie was fourth behind clear winner, Total Reality, and you can watch the contest as often as you like and will not find any reason why the stewards should have inquired into the performance.
In none of his four races did Scottish Boogie attract support of any significance in the betting markets.
But at Killarney he was heavily backed and would have won far more snugly — he seemed to have a nice bit in hand anyway — but for errors at the last two flights.
The bottom line here is that any eejit can plan to take the layers to the cleaners, but the trick is to pull it off. Not many can manage that task.
KILLARNEY enjoyed an excellent three days and there seems a real determination among the management down there to get things right and offer the customer value.
They want to get the bars and restaurants up to speed and the efforts we saw during the week would indicate that their major four-day meeting in July will be a big success. Indeed, the food in the main restaurant came in for a lot of praise, which is a pleasant change when it comes to racecourse catering.
The crowds were good and there was a real buzz about the place, which augurs well for the future of this very popular track.
A couple of others things worth a mention, starting with the talented Bryan Cooper. I thought he was especially good when winning a maiden hurdle on Ross Na Righ and is a young man going places, quickly.
Mossey Joe won a novice chase on Monday night and is a horse worth more than a second glance.
He certainly seems to live on his nerves, has a serious engine, but is almost impossible to settle through a race. The eight-year-old won in a canter, but even after travelling two miles and six furlongs was still buzzing in the winner’s enclosure.
And then there was the success of Dermot Weld’s Sense Of Purpose in the last on Monday. His price collapsed from 8-11 to 4-9, which was inevitable with all off the main players singing from the one hymn sheet!
TONY MCCOY came out this week backing a proposal to ban the whip from being used once the final obstacle has been jumped. It was interesting, if a little disturbing. Both Richard Johnson and Jason Maguire soon joined forces with McCoy.
There is obvious merit in such a change, of course, if you thought that would put an end to the matter.
But somehow trying to please those once-a year viewers, who watch the Grand National at Aintree, and thus showing weakness, leaves one with a less than comfortable feeling.
Bet a pound to a penny the minute the decision is made to ban the whip from the final obstacle, the do-gooders will be in like a rocket wanting to push it back to the second last and so on.