PAT HEALY: Only one place to start for Pat this week. The ‘electric’ atmosphere at Ascot on Saturday in the main due to the Frankie Factor.
Electric Champions Day
I have to say what an unbelievable atmosphere there was on Saturday at Ascot. That was obviously down to the Frankie Dettori factor. From the moment Trawlerman clawed his way back to the front to lead inside the final furlong and win the first race the place was buzzing. Then when King Of Steel won the Champion Stakes, the roof came off the stands. The reception Dettori got all the way back through to the winners’ enclosure was just electric.
The only other time I’ve heard a jockey’s name being chanted in the stands was when Ruby Walsh was riding at Cheltenham back in the day, but on Saturday it was Frankie Dettori’s name being chanted. The crowd really got behind him and got into it.
Who could have written the script that his last ride at Ascot would be a winner? The way King Of Steel won too was remarkable. He was last turning into the straight, but he was tough as nails and fought all the way to the line. It was a fascinating horse race, with a sensational outcome.
We must also give a tip of our hat to Art Power for winning the Sprint as well as to Big Rock for his amazing performance in the QEII. For Big Rock to win like he did in the heavy going was astonishing – he went a good ground pace and just kept going.
Of course Tahiyra tried her best. We’re awfully fond of Tahiyra and it’s only just been announced that she’s been retired. What a filly she’s been, I’ve enjoyed watching her all this year and, in a way, I’m disappointed that she has been retired, but obviously connections know best.
The other Group 1 winner was Poptronic for Karl Burke and Sam James. It was a first Champions Day winner for Sam James on his first ride at the meeting, so it was a big moment in his career. Fair play to him.
It was a brilliant day’s racing. People knock it because of its place in the calendar. They pulled the racing onto the inside track because of the weather, but some years the sun will shine and people will forget about the weather, that’s just the nature of the game. I think it’s a day that serves the industry well and I think it’s well positioned between the Arc and the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a great day and we should all wrap our arms around it and mind it. I’m delighted that everything went well for all the Ascot team on Saturday.
Munster National Day at Limerick
On Sunday I was in Limerick for the JT McNamara Ladbrokes Munster National. It’s always a great day at Limerick, there was a good crowd and we were lucky with the weather as we had sunshine all day.
The National winner was Gevrey, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Ricky Doyle. It was Ricky’s fourth National success, as he’s won an Irish National, a Kerry National, a Midlands National and now a Munster National. I know his dream is to win the Aintree National, and we wish him all the best.
It was fabulous to catch up with JT’s [McNamara] wife Caroline and their three kids Dylan, Harry and Olivia, who were all there to give the presentation.
Another highlight was the performance of Rachael Blackmore in the final race of the day aboard Quilixios, as there was drama when he hit the final fence hard. Of course Rachael had a willing partner as Quilixios didn’t jink, he stayed as straight as a gun barrel and found his feet after the fence. However, the athleticism that Rachael showed; to sit tight and let Quilixios come back underneath her, grab the reins and still have enough to get back up to beat Jack Kennedy on Cool Survivor by a neck was just an awesome piece of horsemanship. We have to give her a big round of applause.
Group 1 success at Saint-Cloud
Aidan O’Brien won his 18th Group 1 of the year at Saint-Cloud last Sunday with Los Angeles. As we said in last week’s blog, I’m sure Aidan would have taken that at the start of the year and we still have the Breeders’ Cup and Hong Kong to come.
The other Group 1 on the card was won by Sunway for Sussex-based Frenchman David Menuisier. This would have been David’s biggest success since Wonderful Tonight won on Champions Day at Ascot three years ago.
Oisin Murphy was in the saddle and again it’s another feather in the cap for Oisin, who has had a fantastic year on his comeback after suspension. He’s ridden over 100 winners in England and he added another Group 1 to his CV in 2023, so well done to him.