PAT HEALY: Only one starting point for Pat this week – the amazing Dublin Racing Festival which exceeded all expectations.

The perfect festival

It was an absolute pleasure to be at Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend.

The two days exceeded all expectations. We had thrills and spills, reputations enhanced and of course bubbles burst.

I have to say the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. I was at the track at half-nine each morning and from when the gates opened at 11 o’clock there was just a great buzz about the place.

It was fantastic to see so many overseas visitors, with around 30 percent of Leopardstown’s ticket sales were from overseas. Next year, I think you’ll see even bigger crowds because people will have heard about the atmosphere, seen it on television and through social media. I’m sure everyone will be putting the Dublin Racing Festival on their bucket lists.

A two-day structure is magnificent. Of course, people are now talking about a third day, but to me it’s a perfect festival. Two days, eight Grade 1s and 15 races. Maybe you could add an eighth race on the Saturday if you wanted, but the Dublin Racing Festival is definitely not broken, it’s a resounding success, so there’s no need to fix it!

Talk of racing on the new bank holiday Monday to me is a disaster. I think all the workers in the industry deserve a bank holiday Monday off and also what about a year when we have a bad frost and the Saturday or Sunday is cancelled? Sure, having a blank Monday will facilitate the meeting to be slotted in a day later.

The festival had everything, it was a fantastic showcase for Irish racing and for all the people in the industry. All the owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, groundstaff and everybody involved.

Huge congratulations to Tim Husbands and his team at Leopardstown.

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Honeysuckle’s reception

I’ve never in my life seen as many people gather around the parade ring before a race as when Honeysuckle was parading on Sunday. I took pictures and the crowd is definitely 25-30 people deep, all straining to get a look at Honeysuckle before the race. She was cheered to the start and the air was crackling with anticipation.

It was magnificent to see her again on Sunday. Okay, she’s probably lost a bit of her zip, as we all do as we get older, but she’s back in one piece. She’s been a legend of our sport and is part of Irish folklore. She’s probably handed the baton over to the new kid on the block in State Man and there’s no disgrace in that.

Willie Mullins

Going into the meeting, if you had told Willie Mullins that Facile Vega, Blue Lord and Lossiemouth would be beaten I’m sure he wouldn’t have been happy. Even with those three hot pots beaten, though, he still picked up those prizes with his second and third strings.

We didn’t even see Energumene, Blood Destiny and many other of his stars, so it just shows you the strength in depth and scale of Willie’s operation.

He ended up with an amazing eight winners in all, with six of them being Grade 1s. Just brilliant.

It’s A Dream To Share for John Kiely and the Gleesons

Of course, there was the Willie juggernaut, and Gordon Elliott and Gavin Cromwell both had two winners, but a really great story was John Kiely having the bumper winner on Saturday with A Dream To Share.

John Kiely is an octogenarian now and he’s a true legend of the game.

A Dream To Share is owned by Claire Gleeson, who is the wife of well-known RTE and ITV presenter Brian Gleeson, and he was ridden by their son John. Brian actually bred the horse himself too, so it was a great story all round.

A Dream To Share may have booked himself on the ferry to Cheltenham now.

More English raiders next year?

Racing is supposed to be about the craic, getting involved and being a part of it. I did just think, there are so many racehorse owners in England, so many syndicates too, if only they had come over and experienced what it was like in Dublin over the weekend.

Okay the racing is ultra-competitive, but if you’re not in, you can’t win. I just think so many people across the pond missed out by not having a runner at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend.

With everyone having experienced and seen the atmosphere though, I think we could see a lot more English runners next year.

First wins at Ballinaboola

Congratulations on a first winner to Tralee native Ross Sugrue. He rode a horse called Lessaidthebetter to success in Ballinaboola, County Wexford for trainer Philip Rothwell.

Then half an hour later on the same card there was also a first success for County Wexford native, Joanne Corish, who won aboard Old Style Humour, trained by Sean ‘Farmer’ Doyle.

Now that they’re off the mark, we wish both Joanne and Ross all the best going forward.

History for Derek O’Connor

History was made at Bellharbour on Sunday, when the all-time leading point-to-point rider Derek O’Connor partnered his 1,300th winner, when Longhouse Legacy won the 5-year-old+ mares’ maiden.

1,300 point-to-point winners takes some graft, hard work and of course good fortune to stay injury-free all those years.

Derek is a legend of the point-to-point game and it’s well deserved. Time is moving on and Derek is training a couple of horses himself now, but I’m sure he’ll be looking to get a year or two more out of the saddle.

We want to pass on our best congratulations on his milestone.

Until next week.

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