There are moments when you are compelled to sit up and take note.
One such moment occurred towards the end of Thursday night’s highly informative ‘Celebration of Cork Racing’ event at the Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs.
Davy Russell was asked to assess the ability of the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro.
He could have played down the merits of the Gigginstown-owned five-year-old, he could have said it’s too early in his career to assess him.
Instead he did the complete opposite.
“Samcro is as good a horse as we’ll ever see,” Russell said.
“He’s an exceptional horse. He made £335,000 (€379,153), he was probably the cheapest horse that will ever be brought. I never rode him on the racecourse, I’ve only rode him at home but, my God, when you’re on about the feel, that’s the feel.”
Asked to expand on that statement, Russell added: “It’s goes back to attitude. You must have the right attitude. That’s the key to this horse. His attitude is unbelievable and he has a huge engine to go along with it. I just adore him, I really do.”
Such talk was in stark contrast to Russell emotions on Wednesday morning when Fayonagh, a dual Group One winning mare of immense potential, had to be put down after breaking a hind leg while working under Russell at Elliott’s Co. Meath base.
“You’d take any injury bar the one she got,” Russell said.
“Any injury. It would have been sad but she would have been out in the paddock. She broke her leg and that’s it. I’ve had a pain in my stomach since but that is just the game, it can be cruel. She was just so talented.”
Russell was part of a select panel that included fellow jockeys Paul Townend and Jamie Codd, trainer Joseph O’Brien, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and journalist Dave Keena.
Townend’s remarks on the importance of confidence were particularly enlightening.
“The day that stands out for me was probably Aintree two years ago,” Townend said when asked what he regarded as his most memorable day in racing.
“I actually hadn’t ridden a winner in Ireland for 12 or 13 weeks before it. I’d had the worst season ever, I couldn’t get a winner, I had a couple of niggling injuries and everything was going wrong.
“Next thing Ruby gets a fall and I’m riding Yorkhill and Douvan the next day. It was probably the first day I went racing where I put pressure on myself. It was down to a lack of confidence, I had no confidence in myself.”
Both Yorkhill and Douvan did the business that day, providing two of Townend’s 31 Grade One wins.
Not bad for a jockey playing second fiddle to Ruby Walsh. He’s not beyond criticism though. Willie Mullins’ velvet glove hides a rarely seen iron fist. “You’ll get away with making a mistake once, if you make the same mistake twice you’ll get it,” Townend said.
“But you deserve to get it if you mess up the same way twice.”
Townend offered positive updates about the Closutton superstars.
“The raw ability Yorkhill has is probably scary but he’s probably his own worst enemy.
“Faugheen is an exceptional racehorse and it would be nice to see him come back and be as good as ever. I don’t see why he can’t come back to his best. On his best day he’s an unreal horse.”
Aside from being a fine jockey, Jamie Codd is as a shrewd a judge as there is in the game. The clip of him making a case for Labaik ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival that went viral after the quirky grey bolted to victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at 25-1 serves as the ultimate example of that fact.
Consequentially, it pays to listen when he talks. His list of horses to follow includes Rapid Escape, Palmers Hill, Sunset Showdown, Madison To Monroe, and Slate House.
The one he seemed most enthused by though is Monbeg Worldwide.
“This is a beast of a horse,” Codd said. “He’s a big chaser in the making, a big galloping horse. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns up in the Gold Cup in two or three years time. He’s a monster. He could be anything.”
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