PAT HEALY: Pat looks back on the weekend highlights including Fastorslow winning at Punchestown and on the other side of the world the sensational Equinox winning the Japan Cup. Plus a horse for the notebook ….
Fastorslow fantastic at Punchestown
Punchestown was a fantastic meeting with plenty of top-class racing. We have to give Racecourse Manager Conor O’Neill and his team great credit. They had a two-day ticket for €25, which was great value and they were rewarded with a fine turnout and the atmosphere to match.
There were two Grade 1s across the weekend. State Man did what he needed to do in the Morgiana and put in a fine performance. He’s going to be a major force in Grade 1s for the rest of the season.
Fastorslow (pictured below) was impressive for Martin Brassil, Sean Mulryan and JJ Slevin in the John Durkan, when beating the Willie Mullins team. Mind you, I wouldn’t write off Galopin Des Champs yet, as he’s an amazing athlete. Sunday’s trip of two-and-a-half miles was nearly a mile short of the Gold Cup trip and I’m sure we’ll see him come into his own once he steps back up in trip. You can’t take anything away from the winner though, he’s a fantastic horse and one to look forward to for the rest of the season. Well done to all connections.
Hats off at Haydock to Venetia and Emmet
Well done to Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch on winning the Betfair Chase with Royal Pagaille. Maybe Bravemansgame had a bit of an off-day, but you can’t take anything away from the winner.
Royal Pagaille loves Haydock and it was a super performance. You’d imagine connections will have to consider the King George now and I’m sure Venetia will be looking forward to the winter ahead with two Grade 1 horses on her hands in Royal Pagaille and L’Homme Presse, when he reappears.
Also at Haydock, we saw Slate Lane yet again advertising Emmet Mullins’ training skills. He always looked like the winner in a competitive handicap hurdle. Well done to Emmet, owner Paul Byrne and jockey Donagh Meyler.
No stopping Gordon Elliott
The weekend yet again belonged to Gordon Elliott, as he saddled seven winners across the two days at Punchestown and a further two at Cork on Sunday. He’s now had a remarkable 39 winners in the last three weeks.
Gordon is firing on all cylinders and we know he targets next weekend’s Bar One Festival at Fairyhouse, so I’m sure that the Cullentra train is set to keep on rolling. He’s doing fantastically well for his stable and owners.
Willie’s [Mullins] Closutton team is also cranking into gear, so it’s going to be a fascinating few months.
One for the notebook
On the subject of Gordon, I was talking to him on Sunday when he was having winners left, right and centre at Punchestown and Cork, as I saw he also had the winner of the four-year-old maiden at Lingstown Point-to-Point.
This is a horse people should take note of. His name is Son Of Anarchy, by Soldier Of Fortune, and he won at Lingstown by 15 lengths. Gordon whispered to me, which was a bit unusual, that he’s trained a lot of great horses, but he does have a soft spot for this horse, and he thinks he has a real engine.
At the moment a lot of these point-to-point horses are being sold privately, so it will be interesting to see whose colours he ends up wearing. He’s definitely a horse to keep an eye on.
Good luck to the Burkes
I have to give a mention to Jonathan ‘Pinky’ Burke who has recently come back from injury and is tipping away riding winners in England. Jonathan is a top-class rider and hopefully he stays in one piece for the season. He’s a lovely guy, and my fingers are crossed that he’ll have a big season in England.
I also have to mention Jonathan’s father Liam, who saddled a winner at Fairyhouse last Friday. As a 66-year-old, Liam rode his first winner in over 30 years at Limerick the Sunday before Cheltenham in March. We were hoping to continue seeing Liam in action in bumpers, but after training his winner at Fairyhouse he announced his retirement from the saddle!
I think the story of Liam riding a bumper winner at Limerick last season was lost in the whole Cheltenham week. It was a fantastic achievement and one that I thought deserved more celebration.
Liam won’t be returning to the jockeys’ ranks, but I’m sure we’ll see him going racing as trainer. I just want to say best of luck to Liam, and also to Pinky for the season ahead in England.
Awesome would be the word I’d use to describe Equinox (pictured below) when seeing him romp home by four lengths in the Japan Cup on Sunday.
He’s one of those horses that I wish I could see in the flesh. I’m not sure if I ever will, but I have to say, what a horse! I believe he may have one more run before the year is out, but whether he’ll stay in training next year is another story.
A huge part of the story too is his jockey Christophe Lemaire. What a person Christophe is. He did interviews after the race in four different languages – tell me any other jockey in the world that could do that. I’ve crossed paths with him several times and he’s a lovely guy too.
Looking ahead to Fairyhouse
We’re looking forward to Fairyhouse this weekend. It’s always a great National Hunt meeting, with the Hatton’s Grace and the Drinmore being the highlights.
With Constitution Hill set to run in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday, it’s exciting for us on this side of the pond to be looking forward to Impaire Et Passe turning out in the Hatton’s Grace.
Thanks to Betdaq and all my readers
This will be my last Betdaq blog, so I just wanted to thank all the folks at Betdaq for having us and to everyone who followed along over the last couple of years. I look forward to seeing you on course in the future somewhere along the road.