PAT HEALY: Pat starts this week blog by looking back at a successful weekend of racing at Navan where Coko Beach won the Troytown.
Navan festival a triumph
I have to give huge congratulations to Manager at Navan Racecourse, Aidan McGarry. It was Navan’s first time hosting a festival and it worked really well. There were great crowds on both days, a fantastic atmosphere and the chance to see plenty of top-class National Hunt horses.
There were loads of locals and people from the surrounding counties, as well as plenty of people from across the border in Northern Ireland. I think Navan town did well out of it and there was a real feel-good feeling about the town and racecourse over the two days. Well done to all the Navan team.
On the track, Saturday brought a brace of Grade 2s. It was fantastic to see Bob Olinger back in the winners’ enclosure after landing the Lismullen Hurdle. He tanked down the hill under Rachael [Blackmore] and powered clear of Zanahiyr at the finish. If he can replicate his Cheltenham Festival form from two years ago, when he kicked Bravemansgame into touch in the Ballymore, he’s going to be a real force to be reckoned with this season.
In the Fortria Chase, Captain Guinness made it doubles on the day for Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead. He’s a stalwart and was very impressive.
Then in the following beginners’ chase we witnessed a fine chasing debut from Facile Vega, as he beat Inthepocket. He jumped well, galloped out to the line to win by four lengths and I don’t think he really came out of second gear. I’m sure Willie [Mullins] and Paul [Townend] would have been delighted with his performance.
On Sunday, Gordon Elliott had a four-timer, the highlight being Coko Beach (pictured below) winning the Troytown. There was another high-class beginners’ chase, in which American Mike beat Willie Mullins’ Fact To File. It was good to see American Mike back, he probably lost last season due to the problems he had, but he put those behind him with his performance on Sunday.
A first winner for Caragh Monaghan
We also have to mention Caragh Monaghan, who rode her first winner at Navan on Sunday aboard the Ian Donoghue-trained St Denis’s Well. Caragh is an All-Ireland winning footballer with Meath and plays for Seneschalstown GAA. She rides out for both Gavin Cromwell and Ian Donoghue, and it was fantastic to see her get her first success. We wish her the best of luck going forward.
Gavin Cromwell in fine form
Gavin Cromwell had a great couple of days last weekend, with two winners at Cheltenham and he rounded off the Navan festival with a win in the bumper courtesy of Only By Night, ridden by Derek O’Connor.
Gavin is having a great season, but it’s no surprise because we know how good he is. In this blog we were talking about Gavin a long time before he got to the heights he’s at now. He works awfully hard and now he’s getting a better class of horse into the yard and he’s taking advantage.
Irish winners among brilliant performances at Cheltenham
We had a good few Irish winners across the three days of the November Meeting. Foxy Jacks won the Cross Country on the Friday for Mouse Morris and Gavin Brouder, which was an excellent result. Paul and Jack Gilligan teamed up to win with Buddy One and as we’ve mentioned there was a double across the meeting for Gavin Cromwell.
There were some fantastic performances. What a performance Burdett Road put in to win the juvenile hurdle. Jonbon was impressive too, but I have to say what a horse Stage Star must be to regain his footing after his mistake at the final fence. A lot of horses would have thrown in the towel and fallen over, so it was a remarkable effort. He was awfully impressive and I think whatever Willie and Gordon throw at the Ryanair they’re going to have to be worried about Stage Star. Given his performance last Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off favourite come March.
Praise for Harry Cobden
Harry Cobden needs a special mention. I have to say he is improving week-in week-out, and while I know a lot of winners he rides for Paul Nicholls are round the second tier tracks in England, when it comes to the big days I think he is really throwing down a marker. He’s already a top-class rider, but it seems like he’s raising the bar again. He’s only a young man, and there’s plenty more to come from him, but I just want to say well done and keep doing what you’re doing, Harry.
Denis O’Regan bows out
We want to wish a very happy retirement to Denis O’Regan. He completed the full set of tracks in Britian and Ireland when he rode a winner at Hereford a few weeks ago. That’s a fantastic achievement and not something that comes easily – it involves a lot of hard work, which is something Denis was never afraid of.
He’s a multiple Grade 1-winning rider and he’ll probably be best remembered for his stint in England with trainer Howard Johnson and owners Andrea & Graham Wylie. Together they won the Stayers’ Hurdle with Inglis Drever and the Arkle with Tidal Bay, both at the 2008 Festival.
Denis announced his retirement at Navan on Saturday, and it was great to see his wife Louise and his sons Thomas and Charles there with him. We wish him all the best in his next chapter.