PAT KEANE: Seamie Heffernan has more than stood the test of time

Last Saturday at the Curragh, Seamie Heffernan did what he does best, producing a typical no-frills drive to land his first Irish Oaks aboard Seventh Heaven.

On Sunday the father of two celebrated his 44th birthday and one of the great unsung heroes of Irish flat racing has more than stood the test of time.

Heffernan served his apprenticeship with Jim Bolger, but has been part of the furniture at Ballydoyle since Aidan O’Brien was installed as the top man at the most famous training establishment in the world in 1996 by John Magnier.

At no stage during those twenty years has anyone ever had reason to suspect that Heffernan might be appointed the number one rider.

He has essentially played second fiddle to Christy Roche, Mick Kinane, Jamie Spencer, Kieren Fallon, Johnny Murtagh, Joseph O’Brien and now Ryan Moore.

But through all of those years not once have we heard a rumbling of discontent, as Heffernan went quietly about his business.

He is not a high profile pilot, is a million miles removed from being in any way flash, but has still managed to build a magnificent career for himself.

Heffernan is clearly very highly regarded and valued throughout the Ballydoyle-Coolmore empire and, you suspect, has earned a bucket of money along the way by basically playing the part of a super sub.

He has won a lot of big races, including six other Irish classics to go with Seventh Heaven. The Irish Derby has come his way on two occasions, with Soldier Of Fortune and Frozen Fire, he’s won the 1000 Guineas three times, Imagine, Halfway To Heaven and Misty for Me, and the Leger on Septimus.

He has landed many other big races in Ireland, including the Champion Stakes twice with Cape Blanco and So You Think.

In Britain his biggest successes have come with Was in the Epsom Oakes and So You Think in the Eclipse Stakes, while in the United States he took the Secretariat Stakes with Highland Reel.

As well as that, Heffernan has twice hit the bar in the Epsom Derby. He was on Fame and Glory, when that horse chased home Sea The Stars in 2009, and the following year partnered At First Sight to finish second to Workforce.

Naturally, neither of those would have been regarded as the Ballydoyle first string, while every horse we have mentioned was trained by O’Brien.

Heffernan’s best quality, arguably, like so many of the top riders, is his ability to keep it simple and you rarely see him lose a race he should have won.

His post-race interviews, of course, are almost priceless. After he was interviewed on RTE, following Seventh Heaven’s win, he said very little.

The watching on Johnny Murtagh, working for RTE, remarked when the chat was over that “Seamie doesn’t give much away.’’ That was something of an understatement.

Heffernan is hardly an interviewer’s dream and his responses are generally short and sweet. Indeed, there are times when he has the capacity to make the often less than loquacious Ryan Moore sound like Ted Walsh!

But he manages the most important part of his career especially well and that’s what really matters. He’s more than a super sub, he’s a super, super sub.

JIM Bolger’s Twilight Payment won a maiden at the Curragh on Saturday, beating Ex Patriot by a length.

I had my couple of quid on the son of Teofilo in the morning, at 2-1, and then watched him literally fall over the line, but deliver, later in the evening, at odds of 4-6.

He was rated 100 going into the contest, but not for a minute did I believe that was accurate. I felt it was much inflated, but still convinced Twilight Payment had the clear winning of this mile and a half heat.

Ex Patriot was his biggest problem on form, even though only rated 80, a massive 20lbs below our choice.

This week the handicapper left Twilight Payment on 100 and raised Ex Patriot by only 4lbs to 85. So, despite the fact there was just a length between the pair, we are now to believe that Twilight Payment is 15lbs a better horse than Ex Patriot.

I just don’t get it. Time will reveal all, but I’ll bet my first instincts were correct and Twilight Payment is simply nowhere near being a 100-horse.

In Thursday’s Racing Post Nick Watts put him up as the likely winner of the forthcoming English Leger. If Mr Watts is right, I’ll make the supreme sacrifice and give up punting for a week.

IT’LL be disappointing if we fail to show a healthy profit at Galway next week and, as always, the plan will be to concentrate almost totally on non-handicaps.

Here are five horses to be afforded plenty of consideration, starting with two of Willie Mullins’, Muthaza and Bamako Moriviere.

Muthaza will be on a hat-trick mission, having scored at Tramore and Bellewstown, and is in novice hurdles on both Monday and Tuesday nights.

Bamako Moriviere has finally shown his true colours of late, winning twice over flights, at Bellewstown and Punchestown.

His real future is surely over fences, however, and is entered in beginners chases on Tuesday night and again on Thursday.

Then there is a trio of Aidan O’Brien juveniles that have very much caught the eye over the last few weeks.

They are Whitecliffsofdover, Capri and Rhodendron, who are all once-raced. They skipped assignments at Leopardstown on Thursday and, hopefully, Galway is the plan for them.

Do you know what, by the end of the week, it will surely be a case of Barbados here we come! What can possibly go wrong?


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