Irish raid beyond expectation

FOUR more winners, including a three-timer for Ruby (which he predicted in his column in these pages yesterday) left the Irish at Prestbury Park in disbelief.

It was especially so as the travelling masses had not really reckoned on such a bountiful haul – and that was for the week as a whole, not just the first two days.

It also sparked a frenzy of activity among the bookies, with one trying hard to beat the other – especially in the case of Ruby’s three mounts and what they might achieve next year.

He kicked off his personal tally with Mikael d’Haguenet’s win in the second race of the day, the Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle, and the bookies’ chits offering odds on him winning either the World Hurdle or the RSA Chase next year immediately started fluttering onto the desks of the assembled hacks in the press room.

To paraphrase scripture, the thought that bookies, like the poor, will always be with us, immediately came to mind and when Cooldine duly trotted up in the RSA Chase for Ruby’s – and Willie Mullins’ second triumph of the day, prompting a further avalanche of their offers on the horse winning the Gold Cup in 2010.

Funnily enough it was interesting to see the variation in prices among them. Paddy Power immediately priced Cooldine at 14/1 to achieve the feat, but quickly back-tracked to 10/1 for some reason. Either it was the weight of money they were shouldered with because of their generosity, or the fact that all their competitors would do no better than 10/1.

Whatever, we were almost buried in these slips after Master Minded cruised home in the Champion Chase with a variety of prices on offer; from 4/7 against Master Minded winning again next year, to 4/1 against him winning four Champion Chases.

Now it may be that Master Minded is a superstar over the course and distance – perhaps even the best since Flyingbolt – but it seems a lot to ask of punters to wager their hard-earned at such ridiculously short odds for a three-timer next year in these difficult times.

That both Mikael d’Haguenet and Cooldine represent so much better value looking to next year is something which also has to be tempered with a degree of caution, especially as so many trainers will tell you how difficult it is to get a horse to Cheltenham fit and ready in any given season, without even looking to the next.

Willie Mullins did comment after the horse’s win yesterday that when he won his first race at Naas, Ruby thought him to be “a machine” and predicted he would one day win a Gold Cup. “I don’t see any reason to change that view after today; this was a bonus. He’s probably my best chance of having a Gold Cup horse and I hope he can come back here and win over fences.”

And, as far as Cooldine’s future was concerned, the Co Carlow trainer was no less bullish. “We will go to Punchestown with him now and see where that leads us next year, but he’s obviously got a future.”

There was a surprise story behind the victory, however, as it transpired the horse had turned out lame shortly before the race.

“About an hour-and-a-half before the race my head girl Ali called me to say the horse was lame and only standing on three legs,” Mullins revealed.

“I had the farrier have a look at him and it transpired that one shoe was too tight and a nail was pressing on him. Richard (the farrier) managed to glue a new shoe on him and added some polyfilla. We then put some ice on him for about an hour. Ruby said later he was slightly feeling himself on the concrete, but was fine once he got out on the track.”

As the bookies chits descended on our desks after the race, the best price available for a Cooldine victory in the Gold Cup next year was 16/1 with Cashmans.

But that’s for next year and it is probably worth noting at this point that Mullins has now equalled a record set by some remarkable men. Both Vincent O’Brien and Tom Dreaper only ever scored three victories at any single festival meeting and now, thanks to Cooldine, Mikael d’Haguenet and Quevega (who won Tuesday’s Mare’s race), Mullins has equalled that.

It could be that this week he might yet shatter a record set by two of Irish racing’s legends. The odds, undoubtedly, are short.

The Irish four-timer on the day was completed by Tom Taaffe’s Ninetieth Minute in the Coral Cup and Philip Fenton’s Dunguib in the Bumper and so we now rest with a total of eight winners from two days.

Our record here for a festival is 10 winners, but matching that might be difficult over the next two days.

Still, for the moment we’ll accept the state of disbelief we’re in, while hoping and praying that our good fortune continues.

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