Veganuary and Operation Transformation are not running this weekend, they are running all month or for even longer. One is trying to change the world, the other trying to change a nation. Best of luck to them because change isn’t easy, and change is another word we will hear a lot for the next 21 days as we head towards a general election.
Just as we will hear too much of “I will, we will, they didn’t, they did, housing, health, Brexit, when I, not if I” and there is probably a few more to go along with all the posters of the same picture on one telegraph pole after the next.
Thank God it’s winter because the Dublin racing Festival is around the corner, Cheltenham on the horizon, the Six Nations is coming up and two of racing’s biggest countryside days take place in the next four days.
Two great days outside the metropolitan tracks in the thick of the season.
Gowran Park in late January for the Thyestes Chase is a magical place to be with a packed and vibrant enclosure, heavy ground, slow finishes, muck flying and a few star names.
It’s been embedded in my mind since Roc De Prince won it in 1991. Carvills Hill made the running to the first, where he fell. Master Aristocrat led them up the back and around to four out where he fell with Tommy Carmody aboard, leaving Brendan Sheridan on Roc De Prince to fend off Charlie Swan on Cahervillahow.
That’s my memory, the day my dad trained his first winner, 21 days after his dad had died and left my dad to take over. A positive when everyday seemed so negative.
When I won it last year on Invitation Only, I knew I wouldn’t win another. I knew the history that race held in our house, but I understand how a positive result can make things seem worthwhile and easy. The Thyestes set me on a road last year that made the end of my career positive and enjoyable.
It was then, as it is now, live on RTE, but so was Thurles tomorrow, only it used to be on a Thursday too.
Back in 1986, when there was no such thing as Racing TV or anything like it, I sat on the floor of our sitting room watching Dad drive Attitude Adjuster down the straight in Thurles to edge out Enda Bolger on Ah Whisht in a Hunters’ Chase. That victory qualified Attitude Adjuster for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, where he ran next and won, some 35 mins after Dawn Run won the Gold Cup.
And there is the point. The Foxhunters still follows the Gold Cup, the Thyestes is still on a Thursday, election posters still go up on the poles and politicians still say the same thing.
But I wonder if the Kinloch Brae, the feature on tomorrow’s card in Thurles, went back to a Thursday, could it get itself back to centre stage? It will clash this Sunday for the first time with the All-Ireland Club Finals, a change the GAA has made but one that is likely to change again amid the fixture chaos debacle they are embroiled in.
Many years ago, racing changed its main day to Sunday. Change should be embraced and tried but change can also mean changing back, and in a bid to hold ground and regain some attention should we change some of our bigger days back to midweek fixtures?
On the racing front Un De Sceaux has won the Clarence House three times and today, at Ascot, bids for a fourth win in the race. He has been a wonderful horse throughout his career and, although he’s 12 now, we’re hoping there’s another big day in him. He’s in great form and will be suited by the heavy ground, though the best of it will be down the straight.
He has just a neck to find with Defi Du Seuil on Tingle Creek form, but the worry is that, while the ground will suit Un De Sceaux more today than it did at Sandown, Defi Du Seuil is only seven and should still be improving. The head ruling the heart says Defi should uphold the form, but my heart is always going to be with Un De Sceaux.
Willie has no runner in the first race today at Navan but it’s probably worth keeping an eye on the bottom horse, Tronador, with an eye on the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival.
We run two in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle. Hybery has come on for his first run for us but I think he’ll come on for another run as he’s a bit green. The trip will really suit Fils Spirituel. I thought he would win at Leopardstown at Christmas, but two miles was too sharp for him. I think you’ll see a different horse over two and a half miles today.
Dolciano Dici runs in the handicap hurdle. He ran a cracker over course and distance last time. He’s in great form but might be vulnerable to an improver such as The Bosses Oscar, who looks well handicapped.
We run two in the beginners’ chase. Harrie has come on for his run the last day but will have to have come on a hell of a lot to win today. Ifyoucatchmenow disappointed at Limerick. Today’s three-mile trip will suit her much better but it’s hard to see anything beating Minella Indo, who looks a class above these.
Don’t Tell Allen makes his debut in the bumper. He’s a strong stayer, is in good form, and our bumper horses are in really good order. But he will have to put in a very big performance to beat Eskylane, who split Assemble and Appreciate It when runner-up in a bumper at Fairyhouse.
In Haydock this afternoon, it’s worth keeping an eye on Darasso, who runs in the Champion Hurdle. As we all know, it’s a wide-open Champion Hurdle so it’s worth seeing how he fares against today’s three rivals, which include Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills.
Looking ahead to Thurles tomorrow, Willie starts with Monkfish and Vis La Toi in the novice hurdle. Monkfish could be the slightly classier of the two, whereas Vis La Toi may be the stronger stayer. Monkfish improved from his first run to his second and has stepped up again so I’m expecting a big run.
Wille runs three in the Grade 2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase (formerly Kinloch Brae Chase), and Footpad comes out best at the weights and Voix Du Reve worst. Real Steel was staying on well behind Min in the John Durkan Memorial when finishing a place in front of Voix Du Reve.
Footpad is coming back after his run in the King George, where he faded quite badly in the homestraight. He had a hard race that day and that’s the only concern for him today.
I can’t understand why Voix Du Reve ran so badly behind Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year’s Day. He just never rose a gallop, but you can draw a line through that. I don’t know which of Willie’s might be best on this occasion, but I just hope one of them wins.
We run Elimay and Cut The Mustard in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novice Chase. Cut The Mustard was very good in Limerick, but you’d have to be delighted with what Elimay did first time over fences, in Cork, and I think she has run to a higher level in her career than Cut The Mustard has ever managed. She will be hard to beat.
Power Of Pause runs in the bumper, over two miles and three furlongs. He’s a sharp enough horse but the ground is going to be more testing in Navan today than in Thurles tomorrow and that’s why he is running there. The better the ground the better the chance he has.