PAT HEALY: The countdown to Cheltenham continues and Pat starts this week’s blog with the disappointing news that Jack Kennedy will miss the Festival ….

Jack Kennedy

The disappointment of the week was the news that Jack Kennedy will miss the Cheltenham Festival. Our hearts go out to Jack. It’s every jockey’s aim and dream to ride at Cheltenham, never mind to be riding for one of the big yards like Gordon Elliott’s.

It’s a big blow to him, he’s a young man at 23 years of age and unbelievably this is the fifth time he’s broken his leg. I just hope that Jack will have plenty more Cheltenham Festivals to be hanging his hat on.

We hope that Jack will be back in time for the festivals further down the road, like Aintree and of course Punchestown. We wish him well and our thoughts are with him.

I’m sure he’ll still be at Cheltenham helping the Elliott team with his presence and we look forward to seeing him there.

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Whip rules

From an Irish jockey’s point of view, speaking to some of the lads on the ground here, the new whip rules are foremost in their minds going over to Cheltenham next week.

They all know the story, they all know the rules. Like everyone else in racing, I’m just hoping that nothing serious happens during the Festival. What we don’t want is a horse having to be disqualified the following Tuesday or a jockey having to miss out on Aintree or anything like that.

I think most reasonable people are singing off the same hymn sheet. It is what it is, and fingers crossed all our Irish lads heading over there will be okay.

Maureen Mullins

I have to tell you a story about Maureen Mullins, Willie’s mother, who is 93 now.

I was in Leopardstown on Sunday where Willie had a winner and both himself and Maureen turned up. It was fantastic to see her, she’s a lovely lady and always a breath of fresh air. She’s always in good form and always smiling.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pictures from Wexford later that same day, when who pitched up to see the winner of the bumper – none other than Maureen and Willie again!

When everybody else is having a lazy Sunday, Maureen jumps in the car with Willie in Carlow, drives to Leopardstown for a few races, then jumps in the car and drives to Wexford.

I was speaking to Stormin’ Norman Williamson, whose son Josh was riding at Wexford, and he said he saw Maureen making her way, not just into the stand, but the whole way up to the top of the stand to watch the bumper!

She’s an amazing woman. I said to her at Leopardstown, ‘Maureen, will I be seeing you in Cheltenham next week?’ and she said, ‘Pat, if you don’t see me on the plane, you’re on the wrong one!’

Listowel Cheltenham preview

There’s a week more to go on the Cheltenham preview circuit, and this Tuesday night in Listowel we have our own preview night in Christy Walsh’s bar in the town square.

Our panel will be trainers Eric McNamara, Mick Winters and Eoin McCarthy and we have two jockeys Darragh O’Keeffe and Maxine O’Sullivan as well as local bookmaker Berkie Browne.

It’s being held in aid of the Parents & Friends of the Mentally Handicapped, which is a great cause, and the event is always well supported.

We’re looking forward to what should be a great night.

Until next week.

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