It was nice to come back with a winner in a grade 3, over fences, and for novices — that answers all questions, ticks all boxes. Unfortunately, though, when you come back with three wins from three rides, the only way the strike-rate can go is downhill.
I’m in Limerick for a couple of rides tomorrow but I’ll be keeping an eye on the television between my two mounts as a horse my wife Gillian has a share in, Clondaw Warrior, is running in the Cesarewitch at the Curragh.
He’s won two from three since joining Willie Mullins. Gillian owns the horse along with David Casey’s wife, Aine, and a couple of more friends. He seems to be in great form. Willie is happy with him, David rides him in all his work and is also happy with him. He has jumped up a huge amount in the handicap — he went up another 13lbs for his last win — but we think two miles will suit him.
Colin Keane gave him a lovely ride the last day, and rides him again. It’s a big step up in class but there are 21 runners and there could have been 30, so that’s a bit of a help. They acquired him for a bit of fun and they’ve certainly had that so if he can get a chunk of the prize money, it’ll be a great bonus, and they’ll be delighted.
The first of my two rides is Sir Harry Cash, in the Anglo Printers Handicap Hurdle. The only race he won over hurdles was in Limerick, so that’s a help, considering we’re racing in Limerick.
In fairness to his trainer, Eric McNamara, I don’t ride for him that often but when I do they tend to have a good chance, and go close.
He thinks the horse is in good form, and that the trip will suit him, so hopefully he has an each-way chance. His only win came on heavy ground, but Eric thinks he’ll handle the drier conditions, and that win was over two miles, so hopefully the longer trip will counteract the ground.
I got the phone call yesterday morning to ride Noel Meade’s Bose Ikard in the Munster National, which I was delighted with. He’s an improver and has a chance. He racked up a couple of wins over hurdles on consecutive days in August, beating Your Busy, who went on to win the Kerry National, in the first of them.
He was back over fences the last day, but may have been a bit unlucky when runner-up to Presenting Beara. Paul Carberry thinks he jumps well, and he has a lovely racing weight of 10-3 on his back.
He’s obviously a second string — Paul has chosen to ride Tom Horn — but I think it looks an open race, Noel Meade’s horses are in really good form, and he has to have a chance.
I don’t think there’s a standout horse in the race. Maybe Shanpallas, who ran a blinder in the Kerry National, is the one we all have to beat.
With the season ahead in mind, it was great to see a good drop of rain last week. Willie’s gallop has softened up quite a bit and so hopefully by the end of October we’ll be in full flight.
We have a whole raft of new horses but it’s hard to nail our colours to any of them until we step them up in their work and school them.
There are a few we’ve had for a while which I quite like, such as Sempre Medici, Thomas Hobson, Max Dynamite, and Allez Colombiere. They all did nice work in the spring, so hopefully with a summer’s grass under their belts, they’ll have improved a little bit. We’d hope they’d all win their maidens and progress on to be a bit better than that.
Obviously, we had a few very good bumper horses last season — Shaneshill, Black Hercules, Royal Caviar, Tell Us More, amongst others — so there’s all of them to look forward to, also. And then there are the big guns. You’re reading in the paper every day about horses going lame — RSA Chase winner O’Faolains Boy the latest of them — and so you’re hoping every time you walk into Willie’s yard there’s no bad news.
Touch wood, they’re all intact at the moment, injury-free, and long may that continue. Vautour, Faugheen, Annie Power, Djakadam, Champagne Fever, Felix Yonger, Boston Bob and Un De Sceaux — they all look really well.
There’s not much difference between horses or footballers or rugby players in pre-season. They have to do all the slow, heavy work to get the condition into them. Then you step up and go a bit faster with them.
The horses have all that groundwork down and now we just need some more rain so we can get some faster work into them. Willie seems to be happy with where he has them, and if he’s happy, I’m happy.
I took a walk around the yard yesterday morning, going from one door to the next, and the talent there is unbelievable. If we could keep the majority of them in one piece, injury-free for the season, that would be fantastic.
That’s not being negative — it just takes very little for a horse to go wrong. Take Moyle Park as an example. He had a very, very small niggle last year, but it interrupted his whole season. He looks a million dollars now and hopefully we can keep him and most of the others that way. If so, we have a lot to look forward to.
Colin Keane’s ban for failing to weigh in after his victory on Unrequited at Wexford happened a while ago but I’d like to revisit it as I committed the same offence many years ago at the same track — I stepped into the jockeys’ room instead of going to the scales.
Where humans are involved and you leave room for error, error will always happen. That’s just being human, but I do think that, between the Turf Club, the Jockeys’ Association and the racecourses, more effort needs to be made so jockeys simply cannot miss the scales.
I know you can point the finger and say it’s Colin Keane’s business to weigh in, but when people get talking to you and the scales doesn’t come into your line of sight, there’s a chance you will forget.
There was no skulduggery involved in Keane’s incident — it was an honest mistake, and the ten-day ban he received was way over the top. It was ludicrous.
But the potential for making that mistake needs to be removed.
He walked in the weigh-room door, and instead of walking across to the other corner of the room, to the scales, he just turned right and walked into the jockeys’ room.
Once you’ve crossed the threshold into the jockeys’ room, you cannot go back out to weigh in.
This cannot be allowed to happen. The scales should be in front of the jockeys’ room door so you cannot miss it, otherwise it’s a certainty to happen at more tracks in the future.
It could be two years’ time, but it will happen at tracks like Naas, where the scales is out of the way, or at Tipperary, where it’s in another room, or many others like them.
Be it that ropes have to be put up or doors closed so that the only way you can get into the weigh-room is by passing the scales, it has to happen. That’s the way it is in the UK, and where I rode in France, and in Japan.
I’ve been around most of the tracks in the UK and in order to get to where you want to go, you have to fall over the scales.
Like the way it is in Killarney, The Curragh, Punchestown, and Navan — those tracks are great examples. Downpatrick is the same, and Kilbeggan has moved it to a better position.
I don’t wish to pick on individual racecourses but in too many of them the scales are out of the way, and they need to be put in the way. If you don’t weigh in at Sandown, or at the Curragh, for example, it has to be a deliberate act. You cannot miss the scales, and that’s the way it should be.