Willie McCreery runners demand the closest inspection going forward

When Willie McCreery saddled a double at the Curragh last Saturday it was further evidence that here is a trainer who is rapidly going places.

Willie McCreery runners demand the closest inspection going forward

McCreery was once a rampaging mid-fielder for the Kildare footballers and has been referred to in the past as the Mick Channon of Irish racing.

Channon was a top soccer player for Southampton and England and won an FA Cup medal 40 years ago when Southampton beat Manchester United 1-0.

When he retired from football in 1986 and turned his hand to training racehorses, four years later, I doubt too many took him seriously.

But Channon has more than stood the test of time and is now universally respected.

In McCreery’s case, however, he is bred in the purple for horse racing, given he is a son of the late Peter McCreery, who was one of the leading trainers in this country, especially in the 70‘s and into the 80’s.

As well as that McCreery’s mother, Anne, who thankfully is still with us, is a sister of Pat Taaffe of Arkle fame.

Peter McCreery’s best known horses were probably Hilly Way, Daring Run and Castleruddery.

Hilly Way won the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 1978 and again the following year, ridden respectively by Tommy Carmody and Ted Walsh.

Daring Run was a high-class timber-topper, who landed the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle on two occasions and finished third behind Sea Pigeon and Pollardstown in the 1981 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Castleruddery, like Daring Run, ridden by Ted Walsh, won the Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham festival in 1974.

I suppose some of us first began to take real notice of the younger McCreery two years ago when his handling of the then five-year-old mare, Fiesolana, was so eye-catching.

Indeed, the daughter of Aussie Rules gave him his first ever success at Group 1 level when taking the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September of 2014.

She was partnered by the talented Billy Lee, who is now very much the go-to man for McCreery and the pair have developed into a cracking combination.

McCreery has particularly impressed this season with his handling of two fillies, Dolce Strega and Devonshire.

Dolce Strega won the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month and then at headquarters last Saturday Devonshire took a Group 2 contest.

Lee was quite superb on both and there is every possibility that McCreery and himself may carry each other a long way.

Right now only three trainers lead the ex-footballer in the championship, Aidan O’Brien, Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger.

I said here a few weeks ago that if you find a McCreery winner the odds are nearly always reasonably tasty. His runners going forward simply demand the closest inspection.

THE news earlier this week that Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud had removed their horses from Tony Martin and Sandra Hughes was, to say the least of it, rather interesting.

Apparently Martin has lost twelve horses and Hughes five.

O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, was quoted in the Racing Post as saying: “We’re very much a results-based business. We give the trainers who get us results due reward.’’

That’s fair enough, I suppose, and they are entitled to do what they like with their own horses, on the basis that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

And, obviously, we have no way of knowing if there is more to this than what’s in the public domain.

Anyway, Martin is a big boy and will battle on, although losing a dozen horses for an organisation that are, you’d imagine, really good payers is a massive blow.

For Ms Hughes, however, you would have a lot of sympathy. She is doing her utmost to replace her late father, Dessie, with some success as well, and it was surely the last thing she needed. Business is business of course but this, at best, left a mildly sour taste.

LAST Sunday at the Curragh, Aidan O’Brien accounted for four of the 11 runners in a two-year-old maiden.

The market indicated that the best fancied of the Ballydoyle quartet was the once-raced Istan, the mount of Seamie Heffernan.

He was in trouble a fair way out, however, eventually trailing in a disappointing fourth behind the first-timer, Van Der Decken.

It is fair to day that Istan is already a journeyman and highly unlikely to be worth more than a passing glance in the coming months.

But that is not a remark which can be levelled at one of the other O’Brien-trained runners, the newcomer, Churchill.

The easy-to-back favourite was never moving like a winner, but was going on nicely at the end and there should be lots to come. Pedestal, also trained O’Brien and beaten nine lengths into fifth, won at Tipperary on Thursday night.

IF the handicapper was right then Jim Bolger’s Saafarr should have been odds-on to win a ten- furlongs maiden at the Curragh last Sunday.

He went into the race with a rating of 105, which had him 21lbs ahead of Aidan O’Brien’s The Major General and 18lbs clear of the other main candidate on form, Michael Halford’s Mighty Legend.

But the off-course bookmakers in the morning, and the punters throughout the day, basically didn’t believe the handicapper at all and Saafarr left the starting gate an uneasy 5-2 favourite.

The Major General won the contest, Mighty Legend was fourth and Saafarr only fifth. The handicapper was wrong, very wrong, but we all make mistakes.

Then this week he only dropped Saafarr 6lbs to a new mark of 99. But doesn’t the world and its mother know that the horse isn’t within a donkey’s trot of being a 99 either?

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