You don’t have to be any sort of genius to now know Notebook is a very good horse.
I must confess to not believing the six-year-old was capable of achieving what he did in the Grade 1 Racing Post Chase at Leopardstown on Thursday.
In a five-horse affair there was a reason why Notebook was allowed start at 7-1, a long way behind the two market leaders, Laurina and Fakir D’oudairies.
On what we knew they were much better than him going into the contest.
Laurina is a 159-rated hurdler, as against Notebook’s 150. Notebook had to concede the mare 7lbs and that looked well-nigh impossible.
Fakir D’oudairies is rated 149 over flights, but had made a seamless transition to fences and brought much stronger chase form to the table than Notebook. He too was getting 7lbs from the eventual winner.
Notebook was a decent enough timber-topper in his own right, but never hinted he was a possible star in the making.
He went to Tramore, for instance, to win his maiden hurdle and when given his chance at the Cheltenham festival in March was a remote 12th of 12 finishers behind City Island in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge went to Leopardstown on the back of winning impressively twice over fences this season at Punchestown, but I didn’t think either of those contests took a massive amount of wining and remained unconvinced.
I am no longer a non-believer. He was quite superb at Leopardstown, jumping brilliantly and the admirable attitude he displayed was deeply satisfying.
The manner in which Notebook has progressed only adds to de Bromhead’s growing reputation. The trainer is a serious operator, as his stable goes from strength to strength.
We said it here a few weeks ago and will say it again, it is tremendous for Irish National Hunt racing to see de Bromhead and Joseph O’Brien emerging as major forces to take on the might of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. The real winner will be our game.
Rachael Blackmore partnered Notebook and she described her partner, after the race, as “fantastic.’’ It is a word that can be used in equal measure to define Blackmore.
She is brave, skilful and so tactically aware that it is surely no exaggeration to conclude she is the best lady rider off all time over jumps.
When hard-nosed, cranky, unsentimental punters universally agree Blackmore is a real plus on a horse then there is no doubt she has well and truly arrived.
At Leopardstown yesterday she cemented her place at the top table with another magnificent display aboard de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard in a Grade 1, two-mile chase.
Fakir D’oudairies lost little in defeat on Thursday, but come January 1, of course, the 7lbs allowance he has enjoyed as a four-year-old will be gone.
My impression on Thursday is that two miles and a furlong is just too short for him at the top level.
I think he needs to go out in distance, while right now one’s instinct says that whatever beats Notebook will win the Arkle at Cheltenham.
Those who were raving about Samcro this season will probably not lift their heads above the old parapet for a little while!
Samcro made a winning debut over fences, by 17 lengths, at Down Royal in early November and then subsequently fell two out when upsides Fakir D’oudairies in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse.
We were then subjected to a fair bit of waffle after Fairyhouse — you know he would definitely have won and is clearly back to his best, that sort of stuff.
Well, Limerick on Thursday revealed exactly where Samcro is, going nowhere and at a rate of knots.
I don’t know whether he has a wind problem, he again wore a tongue-tie, but he cut out as before, proving no match for the venerable Faugheen.
If Faugheen never wins another race it doesn’t matter, he has been some warrior over many seasons.
In the meantime, Samcro comes with a health warning that he can prove seriously injurious to the pocket!
Also at Limerick wouldn’t you have to love what Easywork did in a two and a half mile conditions hurdle?
He wasn’t highly tried in bumpers, finishing third on his debut at Naas and taking a modest event easily at Down Royal.
Given the colours he sports, however— Gigginstown— it was always likely would come into his own when obstacles were put in his way.
He immediately won his maiden at Gowran Park, but there was no reason to get carried away, on the basis of beating Mt Leinster by a length and a half.
But when Mt Leinster bolted in at Leopardstown on Thursday that showed the form in an altogether more favourable light.
At Limerick, Easywork was heavily backed to take out the Willie Mullins hot-pot, Excepted, and those with their heads down knew exactly what they were doing.
Easywork didn’t just win, he thrashed Excepted to the tune of 22 lengths. Maybe, Excepted isn’t much good, so we will need to find out more about Easywork through the campaign.
What we do know for sure, however, is that Elliott’s gelding is able to go along at a fair pace in front and is a great jumper.
RACING TV moving the three Irish meetings onto a separate channel, to FreeSports, on Thursday was a total success.
This was, perhaps, a glimpse of the future and there is now no doubt that a channel dedicated just to Irish racing would prove hugely popular with the public.
I think Racing TV gave the knockers their answer here and there can be no doubting how committed they are to providing the best service possible.
You’d imagine British viewers were delighted the Irish racing was missing off the main channel and it was essentially a win-win for all concerned.
What was on FreeSports was perfect, little rushing around and coverage that left nothing to be desired.
They had Gary O’Brien and Kate Harrington on the ground at Leopardstown and Fran Berry did the honours from Limerick.
Berry is a natural and has taken to this new discipline with aplomb. We know he is opinionated and the ideal companion for O’Brien and Kevin O’Ryan.
But he was home alone at Limerick and left with the responsibility of posing the questions. Berry sailed through the test with flying colours.
Oh, and one other thing, a punting pal rang after the first at Leopardstown on Thursday, puzzled as to why the race wasn’t shown on Racing TV (426).
Apparently, smoke was billowing out of both of his ears!
“Go to 435 old-son’’, I said. He did as he was told and marvelled at the miracle that unfolded before his eyes.
I’d hate to send him out to post a letter!