It just makes sense to put racing back under Department of Agriculture’s wing

The cabinet reshuffle didn’t please most people but the one good thing to come out of it was that racing has gone back into the Department of Agriculture from Sport.

The cabinet reshuffle didn’t please most people but the one good thing to come out of it was that racing has gone back into the Department of Agriculture from Sport.

I was delighted to see that because while it was in Sport, people had this idea of it as a leisure thing. I always felt that anything to do with racing was an industry because of the amount of people it employed. That meant it should be in Agriculture; it could never be viewed as a pastime.

It was stupid really the way it was happening because whenever we had health problems, such as the foot and mouth, you had to deal with the Department of Agriculture anyway. It just makes sense.

The Midlands National in Uttoxeter last Saturday proved a bit of a disaster. We got up there and the ground was good, good to soft in places. By the time the race started it was soft to heavy so much rain had fallen. In the end only three finished.

Badgerlaw actually looked like he was getting into it going out on the last circuit but down the back was absolutely bottomless ground and he pulled up. You have to think of the horse’s safety and it tells you something when only three finished, even though there was prize money down to fifth or sixth.

It is so frustrating because we waited all year long to get good ground for Badgerlaw. This was THE target for him. He won’t get into the Irish Grand National but there are a couple of chases in Punchestown for him. We’ll give him a rest and build him up again for that.

We had one runner in Cork on Sunday but again the ground was too soft for him. In general though, it was a quiet week for us in terms of racing but a yard doesn’t stop operating just because it doesn’t have runners.

In fact I found it quite an exciting week as we caught up on things that needed to be done around the place and started building our team for Fairyhouse, as well as working my horses for tomorrow in Leopardstown.

On Tuesday I worked two lots of four in the Curragh. I had intended to have a strong team going to Leopardstown but the ground has gone against a few of my nice fillies and I’ll only have two now, Gimli’s Rock and Tarsille. I hope they run well. The same applies to Princess Marlan and Polybe des Obeaux in Navan today. I also gave a nice two-year-old by Big Bad Bob called Moment of Weakness its first work and it went well.

My flat horses are in the minority in my yard. It’s about a proportion of 2:1 in favour of the jumpers. I have some nice two-year-olds this year. A gorgeous High Chaparral colt arrived here this week and you would start to get excited looking at him. We have four Big Bad Bob two-year-olds, a Hawk Wing and a couple of more to come in.

As far as the jumps go, I don’t think I’ll have anything for Aintree so we’re looking to Fairyhouse first and then Punchestown. This week I worked Roberto Goldback (left) and Coole River with Fairyhouse in mind. We won’t really look at Punchestown until Fairyhouse is over.

I am happy with all of them at the moment. It’s so worrying because there has been so much rain but at least it’s warmer now and there’s a bit of growth around. You have to look for the positives, especially in this climate.

Trainers have to re-apply for their licences every year and the number applying this year is down 11% on the year before. These are tough times and you just have to tighten the belt, work harder and keep coming up with new ideas.

There was some time to relax during the week when John and I went to the Flat racing awards and brought a couple of my owners with us. There were 200 people at what was a well organised event and everyone enjoyed themselves. It was great to see Mick Kinane and John Oxx getting awards but I thought the best awards were the ones given to Paul Deegan and Tracey Collins for training their first group winners. That was a nice touch.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


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