The 162nd edition of the Listowel races draws to close on the banks of the river Feale this afternoon in a much different way to every other edition that has gone before it.
Never has it had such little impact on the local or surrounding areas, never before has the town been so quiet while the races where on and never before has the place not needed to be cleaned when race week finished.
The “strange times” continue but the races were pretty much the same, the ones on the track that is, most certainly not the event.
Cabaret Queen won a thrilling Kerry National is last-gasp fashion as she stuck her neck out to just hold off the fast-finishing Moyhenna by a nose, and Baron Samedi completed a cracking four-timer in Thursday’s featured Listowel Printing Works Handicap.
But the race that seemed to garner most attention was Wednesday’s bumper won by Costalotmore.
The 20/1 shot, trained in Wexford by Richard O’Keefe, pulled very hard for the first furlong of the 2m 4f contest, and when Tiernan Power Roche decided that there was no point in fighting over how fast the horse wanted to go and so allow Costalotmore to go his own speed, he simply bowled off into an unassailable lead and was next seen by the opposition when he was unsaddling in the parade ring.
He won by a distance but was allowed to build up his lead very easily and he was, in fact, never going too fast himself. Thus, when the others realised that, in fact, they were going too slow, the race was over. He wasn’t the first nor won’t be the last horse to get loose on the front of a race, Serpentine being a more high-profile example in recent times in this year’s Epsom Derby.
But pace is a tricky thing to get right and more often than not, the one tipping away into a clear lead is going too fast and does stop because you can win by going to slow early in a race but you can’t win by going too fast.
I know punters scream “fix” when they see what happened on Wednesday, and they moan at the fact they got no run for their money if they backed anything other than Coastalotmore, but judging by his price, for a horse who had won been second in a bumper and won two point to points, not too many, if any did.
Which brings me to my point, why does nobody ever shout about the ones who tear off in front, capitulate and trail in at the back of the field?
Is it because optically they were in front at some point in the race and therefore had a chance of winning? Is it because the commentator then repeatedly mentions that horse as being in front so people think they have a chance?
Or is it because people perceive the one to be out in front to be at least trying its hardest?
Well the easiest way to lose any race is simply to go to fast, not too slow, but why is no-one ever asked those questions by the stewards?
All the riders in Listowel’s bumper on Wednesday, bar Tiernan Power Roche, were asked by the stewards why they went too slow. Their answers were along the lines that they simply misjudged the speed.
A mistake. They are human but in Australia two weeks ago Hugh Bowman got a 20-meeting ban for his ride on Run To The Rose at Farnan after the stewards decided he made insufficient effort to restrain Run To The Rose in the first part of the race.
He blazed along five lengths in front of the pack but the fact that Bowman then did not try and conserve some energy in the middle part of the race to allow his mount finish out the race the is what got him in trouble. He appealed the decision and had it correctly overturned because he too made a mistake.
Jockeys don’t have speedometers between the horse’s ears to gauge the speed they are going, it’s a feel and a skill but one everybody gets it wrong from time to time.
Mistakes happen but at least the stewards in Australia are looking at every horse and jockey in a race to see that everyone is doing the best the can and not just the ones at the back.
Finest Evermore will bid to round off a good week for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend today at Listowel in the Allman Contract Novice Hurdle at 2.15, but the eyes looking for quality racing and future stars will be trained on Newmarket for the Cheveley Park and Middle Park Stakes.
Champions Weekend was a cracker two weeks ago but the only race that left you wondering what might have happened was the National Stakes.
If Lucky Vega got out, could he have troubled Thunder Moon? We won’t get the answer to that today, but we might find out how good the Irish colts are, and I think he will win to give connections some little compensation.
Miss Amulet flies the Irish flag in the Cheveley Park for Ken Condon who was purchased by Doreen Tabor after her success in the Lowther Stakes at York.
She beat Sacred that day and before that beat Frenetic at Naas, so I think she will cope with the step up to Group 1 level and cap a fine season herself and for her trainer.