Ruby Walsh: How can we create more magical meetings?

Quality. That’s all it takes it to attract a crowd.

Ruby Walsh: How can we create more magical meetings?

Quality. That’s all it takes it to attract a crowd. Fairyhouse last Sunday was a quality card, topped by an okay three-year-old hurdle and tailed by a very good bumper, blended with two decent handicaps - one chase and one hurdle - which were good fillers for the quality that attracted patrons to the meeting.

The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle had a potential superstar, Envoi Allen, who delivered, taking on some decent looking opposition.

The Drinmore Novice Chase had Fakir D’oudairies going head to head with Samcro, which didn’t deliver but created the feeling you wanted to see more.

And Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle started on the journey to try and become Irish racing’s poster girls.

The question is, though, how does racing create this atmosphere, attendance and suspense on a regular basis? The truth is it can’t. It can’t every week - but nor can any sport.

Golf tries but its four majors tower over the rest of its action, in global terms — it is global after all. Soccer does more regularly but already Liverpool are dampening the Premier League battle as they run away from the pack.

The FA Cup? Not until the last eight. And the Champions League has hit-and-miss weeks. In rugby, the Champions Cup now has four big rounds and a few in the spring before it gets really hot.

The Six Nations also need early results to catch the imagination.

Let’s face it, if Ireland lose their opening match is there the same scrum for tickets for the next home game?

Munster hurling is an easy sell, Leinster football is hardly sell-out stuff and only the Dubs can fill Croker.

The rest can only do so if they make it to an All-Ireland semi-final. Every sport faces the same quandary, but the answer is not one any sporting authority wants to hear: less is more.

Racing doesn’t, and never will, have the following here that the GAA or rugby does, and it will never be able to compete with soccer or golf globally.

But what it can do is create magical days like last Sunday.

The GAA issued the results of its fixtures task force this week and it got me thinking. The program needs to change a bit – by which, I really mean the fixtures.

In the winter months, only a few Irish tracks can cater for the weather and ground-related demands our climate imposes on us but a better spread geographically of our meetings is needed at weekends and some of those cards need to be amalgamated.

If, in theory, Down Royal’s big meeting kicked us off on the first Saturday in November, with Navan the following day, featuring the Lismullen Hurdle to whet the appetite.

Sunday Two would be Clonmel for the Clonmel Oil card, with Sunday Three back in Navan for the new Troytown and Fortria card.

Sunday Four would be Punchestown for the Morgiana and John Durkan, Sunday Five would be Fairyhouse for the Hatton’s Grace card we had last week, and Sunday Six would be Cork for the Hilly Way and Cork National.

The last two Sundays before Christmas would still be Navan and Thurles as they stand now, with Grade 3-type novices prepping for Naas’s big Sunday early in the New Year.

Christmas has all the clashes it needs and the crowds to boot but, for November and early-December, racing needs to put its eggs into big day, dotted around Ireland, even more evenly spread than I have


The GAA came up with 30 odd ideas, so suggestions are welcome.

Un De Sceaux taking on some tough rivals

Willie’s first runner of a busy weekend is Listen Dear, in the 12:00 at Aintree, a listed mares’ chase. If she can overcome Casablanca Mix, she might just get through.

At Navan, Tiger Tap Tap runs in the maiden hurdle but to me he seems to have gone backwards since his run behind Sir Erec at Leopardstown last Christmas. He needs to find a way to go forward if he’s to get off the mark, and Festival D’ex, from the stable of Gordon Elliott, could prove a formidable opponent.

In the handicap hurdle, Willie runs Acapella Bourgeois, Dandy Mag and Pleasant Company, but Tout Est Permis, with just 9-10 on his back, really looks the part. We run Voix Des Tiep and Ifyoucatchmenow in the beginners’ chase, but if Voix Des Tiep has improved anything from his Naas run, he will be hard to beat.

If Voix Des Tiep goes in, it will be a good advertisement of Tornado Flyer’s chance in the Grade 3. I think he’ll be too good for I’m A Game Changer. We have En Beton in the bumper. He’s a fine big horse, and will be suited by Navan, but he’s a three-mile chaser in the making.

Between the runs of Tornado Flyer and En Beton, we’ll all be tuned in to the Tingle Creek at Sandown, where Un De Sceaux once again puts his cards on the table. He is in great form, is a very admirable character, but faces some new opposition here in Janika and Defi Du Seuil, and the last-named could be very hard to beat.

Tomorrow at Punchestown, Willie starts off with Quartz Du Rheu in the rated novice hurdle. He has been a little bit disappointing, but if he brings his best form to the track he’ll be there or thereabouts.

Andalusa runs in the third race, but I hope she has strengthened up because two miles and three furlongs could be far enough for her.

We have four in the John Durkan Memorial, and it is a cracking race, but I think, on this track at this trip, this is Min’s race. He’s brilliant around here, is too good for most of them, and is too quick for the ones he might not be good enough for. I think this race is made for him and he’s my banker of the weekend.

Breaken will take a lot of following in the beginners’ chase. I think we’ve won the last seven beginners’ chases we’ve had runners in, and this fellow is not dissimilar to Cash Back, who won his recently.

Our first runner in Cork is Vis Ta Loi, in the Grade 3 three-mile novice hurdle. He’s a brilliant jumper and I think the step up in trip will really suit him.

Farid runs in the 2:05, but he has never managed to bring his home work to the track and is best watched, I think.

Only four run in the Hilly Way Chase and I just wonder if Cilaos Emery has the experience for this.

Either Ballyoisin or Great Field is going to go one hell of a gallop which will be a good test of him. I’ve become a real Ballyoisin fan.

The mares’ chase is a cracker, but I think Sinoria only has to repeat what she did when beating Good Thyne Tara on her chasing debut and she will be too good for the rest.

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