PAT HEALY: The countdown to Cheltenham is well and truly on and Pat started last week with a visit to Gordon Elliott’s press day.

Cullentra open day

On Monday morning I was at Gordon Elliott’s for his press day ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. It’s great for the media to have access ahead of the Festival. Huge thanks to Gordon and all his team.

We had a lovely morning and got to see some of his big guns, including Mighty Potter, Conflated and Teahupoo. Gordon is going to be sending around 50 horses over, and hopes are high that they’ll come back with a couple of winners.

There’s a buzz of anticipation in the air of course, with Cheltenham being only two weeks away now. We hope everything goes smoothly for the team in the final weeks.

A big thing for the team at Cullentra is the return of Jack Kennedy. Jack was in Dubai last week getting a bit of heat into his bones and he’ll be seeing his specialist this week.

With a bit of luck, he will make it back for the Festival. It’s a big thing for any young jockey’s career, it’s the biggest stage that they dance on. I think everyone in racing will have their fingers crossed for Jack, that he’ll make it back in time.

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Future clues at Farmacaffley

Last Saturday I was at Farmacaffley Point-to-Point in County Armagh. It’s a fantastic venue, and a really tough track, probably one of the toughest on the circuit.

The four-year-old maiden on the card was won by Warren Ewing, with a horse by Jack Hobbs called Intense Approach. Jack Hobbs is a young stallion and as we all know, he won the Irish Derby a couple of years ago. This was his first four-year-old winner, and Intense Approach looks a name to look out for going forward.

Later on the card, Winged Leader strutted his stuff with consummate ease and won the Open race with the authority you would expect. He’ll be going to Cheltenham now all guns blazing for the Foxhunters, and could be one of three or so in the race for his trainer, David Christie.

On that note, David has taken a bit of a knock and we’d like to send our best wishes to him. Hopefully he’s on the road to recovery and will be back in the winners’ enclosure in person shortly.

Naas on Sunday

Corbetts Cross put in a fine performance to beat Found A Fifty. It was a thrilling contest, with the two neck-and-neck all the way to the line and pulling 16 lengths clear of the third. For Corbetts Cross to do what he did over two miles around Naas was a good performance and he’s clearly a high calibre horse.

He has now moved ‘hotels’ from Eugene O’Sullivan to Emmet Mullins in the colours of Paul Byrne. As we all know, both Emmet and Paul are adept at plotting out targets for their horses, so it’ll be interesting to see if Corbetts Cross turns up at Cheltenham.

We mentioned Rebel Gold a couple of weeks ago in this blog and told readers to keep an eye on him. He rocked up at Naas last weekend, and again showcased his trainer Pat Foley’s talents.

Pat is someone to watch out for, he’s a young man making his name in the training game. He showed once again that when he has the right tools, he’s well able to produce the goods. Well done to Pat and his team.

Blazing Khal takes a dip

Last Friday I went to Beale Beach in County Kerry to photograph Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Blazing Khal. I think he enjoyed his dip in the sea!

It’s been well documented that he picked up a nick after winning at Navan. The salt water will help with that and hopefully he’ll stay in one piece for Charles [Byrnes] to get him there for the big race.

Charles, Johnny and the Shark in Dubai

Charles [Byrnes] was in good form and was telling me that he’s going to Dubai next week for a Cheltenham preview night, would you believe! It just shows you the reach that the Cheltenham Festival has.

If there’s anybody in Dubai, make sure you go along to the Cheltenham preview night at McCafferty’s Irish Pub, where you’ll see Charles, the Shark [Hanlon] and Johnny Dinnen.

You couldn’t have three bigger characters together, but I’m sure anyone that knows Charles, it’ll be Johnny and the Shark that do all the talking, and Charles will be nodding his head. There’ll be loads of banter and loads of craic. We wish them all the best on the night.

Until next week.

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