One of the great things about Irish flat racing, unlike its National Hunt counterpart, you could argue, is its competitive nature.
Yes, I know that Aidan O’Brien, just like Willie Mullins in the jumps game, is virtually guaranteed to end every season as the leading trainer, but that’s basically where the similarity ends.
Mullins has one main rival, Gordon Elliott, and often provides the main opposition to himself with multiple runners.
Virtual laps of honour for Mullins superstars is a frequent occurrence, while on the flat O’Brien earns just about everything he gets.
Obviously, O’Brien has savage firepower, but the likes of Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger are no shrinking violets and lead the charge against the Ballydoyle battalions.
They are joined by plenty of others, chief among them the rapidly burgeoning Ger Lyons yard. Lyons is a talented trainer, going places at a rate of knots.
When I was covering the game, I always found him well worth a listen. His comments are usually measured and intelligent and he now seems to have built up a really good portfolio of owners.
Lyons has made a solid start to the campaign, emphasised by the display of the promising Psychedelic Funk at Naas on Wednesday night.
This colt is by the great Australian sprinter, Choisir, and owned by one of Lyons’ long-standing patrons, Sean Jones.
He was well touted, prior to his debut at Naas last month, and didn’t disappoint, getting up close home to score by half a length.
Naas on Wednesday showed he had come on a bundle for that experience, making most of the running to win by six lengths. The Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot now beckons for him.
At Newbury today, Lyons, who is not given to tilting at windmills, runs Endless Drama in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes.
This is a most interesting decision. Endless Drama, a massive horse, has only ever won a maiden - his single run as a two-year-old - and now makes his seasonal debut in Group 1 company.
He finished second in his three outings last season, ending with a cracking effort when beaten three parts of a length by Gleneagles in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh towards the end of May.
That was the last time we saw the son of Lope De Vega and Lyons has clearly shown endless patience and kindness to a four-year-old he seems to think the world of.
He is on record as saying that if he has a top horse in his care then Endless Drama is the one. But this is a mighty ask, following such a long absence, and it is going to be fascinating watching how it unfolds.
THOSE, and there are plenty of us, with a soft spot for Kieren Fallon took a lot of pleasure seeing him guiding Now Or Never, trained by another up and coming trainer, Michael O’Callaghan, to success in the Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last Sunday.
There was a real glint in Fallon’s eye as he responded to Matt Chapman’s questions, after the colourful presenter shoved a microphone in his general direction.
ATR’s decision to send Chapman to Leopardstown was inspired and made for great television. Those on the receiving end know that anything is possible and react accordingly.
As a result, we were treated to some excellent chat with Fallon, Jim Bolger, twice, Dermot Weld and others and it was highly entertaining. Chapman, love him or hate him, makes for compulsive viewing.
On the same note, Kevin O’Ryan was in full flow for ATR at Naas on Wednesday. Again, he stuck his microphone where another fellow mightn’t shove his hurley and was superbly accommodated by all of his many “victims.’’
HAVING watched all of the Epsom Derby trials, you have got to say that the race has developed into a massive puzzle.
Indeed, there is a real possibility the Derby may be overshadowed by the Oaks, which is going to bring together Minding and So Mi Dar.
When Minding put up that spectacular performance to win the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, she looked sure to go off an odds-on shot in the Oaks.
But So Mi Dar ensured that was unlikely with a terrific win in the Musidora Stakes at York on Wednesday, beating Fireglow by four lengths.
Now when Minding landed the Newmarket 1000 Guineas, Fireglow was fourth, beaten four lengths and a neck.
Basically, on what we know then, Minding and So Mi Dar are virtually the same horse. At least we can get a decent handle on this classic, whereas the Derby shapes as being almost impossible to solve!
I was a bit disappointed to hear Dermot Weld indicate that the hugely progressive Zhukova was heading for grass, after her very fine victory in a Group 3 at Naas on Wednesday evening.
There is no doubt but that this daughter of Fastnet Rock is at her best on a soft surface and Weld has some big targets in the autumn in mind for her.
She was quite superb at Naas and possesses a great will to win. Zhukova seemed to be in trouble shortly before the home turn, but found loads when asked to go about her business by Pat Smullen and having seven and a half lengths to spare over Aidan O’Brien’s Pretty Perfect at the line told its own story.
The disappointment anyway centres on the prospect of not seeing this admirable sort for many months. But, no matter how long she may go missing, we will not be forgetting her.
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