Two things happened in Irish racing over the last eight days that offer real hope for the future, writes Pat Keane.

The first was at Dundalk last night week, when the Johnny Murtagh-trained Tobacco Bay attracted the attentions of the stewards, after finishing six lengths fifth in a maiden behind hot-pot, Zinat.

The stewards did not like what they saw, nor did they attach much credence to the explanations offered, and proceeded to act accordingly.

They acted under the significant changes to Rule 212, which offers them the support they have needed for a long time.

My understanding of the rule is that ALL horses have to be ridden to attain the best possible placing, in other words a jockey has to be seen to be making a reasonable effort and, on that basis, the stewards were left with no option but to take action.

Seamie Heffernan was aboard Tobacco Bay and he held up his charge throughout. Indeed, approaching the home turn, Tobacco Bay had seven horses in front of her and only two behind.

Formerly trained by the now retired David Wachman, she was the only possible danger on form to Zinat, having shown some promise on her debut when seventh of 13 behind the smart Holy Cat at Leopardstown in August.

Anyway, it was quite apparent a long way from home that Tobacco Bay was going to play no part at the business end of the contest and she arrived at the post, having had an enjoyable experience, under kid-glove handling.

I’ve watched the contest side-on and head-on and it is crystal clear that Tobacco Bay was never subjected to any great pressure and came home untouched by the whip.

The stewards, to their credit, wasted no time and handed out punishments that clearly indicated how seriously they viewed what had unfolded.

Murtagh was fined €2,000, Heffernan suspended for five days and ordered to forfeit his riding fee and Tobacco Bay was suspended for 42 days.

Should this be the first step in making jockeys think twice about sitting and doing little or nothing and then coming in and feeding the stewards a load of old bullshit then Rule 212 will represent a good day’s work.

If it is a sign of what is to come then we are going to be in for a most interesting flat campaign. Will the stewards follow through when the real big fish are obviously using the racecourse as a schooling ground? That will be the test, but for the moment let’s just say this was a good start.

Then at Fairyhouse last Saturday the stewards again emerged with credit, following the running of a Grade 3 juvenile hurdle.

Victory went to the Davy Russell-ridden Ex Patriot, who beat Dinaria Des Obeaux and Bryan Cooper by a head.

Between the final two flights Ex Patriot shaped as the likely winner, but then edged to his right, hampering the second, who bounced off the rails.

Cooper then conjured a renewed effort from his mare and they were closing down Ex Patriot all the way to the line.

We have long argued here that in cases as tight as this one undoubtedly was, that the benefit of the doubt should always go to the victim. That’s how the stewards saw it and they were absolutely right.

LAST year the relatively small stable of Pat Kelly produced Mall Dini to land the Pertemps Network Hurdle Final at Cheltenham, but a repeat with Presenting Percy hardly looks on the cards, after the horse was allotted 11-10 when the weights were unveiled this week.

The progressive six-year-old was impressive when scoring at Fairyhouse on Saturday and has a touch of class.

Davy Russell was in the plate and you could almost sense that he was asking for the minimum, with future targets in mind.

In the end, Presenting Percy was three and a quarter lengths clear of an in-form horse in That’s A Wrap, but, to my eyes, was value for a lot more.

The Irish handicapper this week raised Presenting Percy by 10lbs and there can be little argument that is about right. Cheltenham, however, shapes as a bridge too far!

GORDON Elliott’s Monbeg Worldwide, successful in his one point-to-point at Lismore, is now unbeaten in three bumpers, having gone in again at Naas last Sunday.

He began in a modest contest at Roscommon in October and followed by scrambling home at Cork in November.

I have to say I didn’t rate him and would have loved to oppose the five-year-old at Naas. But that just wasn’t on, with Monbeg Worldwide a 4-11 shot to beat just four opponents, none of them having the profile to offer a real challenge.

As it turned out, Elliott’s gelding literally fell in, beating the four-year-old, Scheu Time, by a hard-earned neck.

The immediate reaction was that one’s initial thoughts were correct and this fellow is just a horse. That may well prove to be right, but I’m not so sure now.

I didn’t realise, until Monbeg Worldwide returned to the winner’s enclosure, just how big he is and he is surely a three-mile chaser down the line. I think it might be wise to keep an open mind, until we know a lot more.

JUST how good was Ruby Walsh aboard Pleasant Company in that Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse a week ago-and if you think there is an element of talking through the pocket then you could not be more right?

In the Racing Post, David Jennings said what Walsh did was “a masterclass’’ and that was the perfect description.

There was one nagging doubt about Pleasant Company and it was his ability to go through the heavy ground.

But, partnered with almost frightening patience by Walsh, Pleasant Company finally cut down the gallant Thunder And Roses close home.

It was a further 51 lengths back to the third, but the handicapper has left Pleasant Company on his current mark of 148.


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