PAT HEALY: Pat discusses what we learned at Leopardstown with one eye on Epsom.
I was in Downpatrick last Friday and I have to give a huge compliment to racecourse manager Richard Lyttle. He’s done a fantastic job and there was a great local crowd. The racecourse has come on leaps and bounds and it all looks magnificent. All the local people were enjoying themselves and being involved in a racecourse myself I operate by the mantra that if you don’t have the locals, you don’t have anybody. The place just looks fantastic, and Richard has done a fantastic job. They’re lucky that they have a fantastic ground staff, and the track is always in great nick. I rarely see a better cut of grass on a racetrack, anywhere in the country. For a racetrack that’s classed as small, many other racetracks could take note and take the blueprint of what Richard and his team do at Downpatrick.
I continued on my weekend journey to a Point-to-Point in County Antrim on Saturday. It was in Broughshane which is in Ballymena, and I have to say it was a fantastic day out with another huge crowd there for a Point-to-Point. Ballymena were even playing Cliftonville in the Irish Cup and there was still a huge crowd at the racing. Loads of sweet stalls for the kids, coffee vans and chip wagons and I have to say it was a great day out too. Wilson Dennison is a huge supporter of the Point-to-Point game and sponsors a lot of races, and was rewarded with a double on the card winning both the four and the five-year-old maiden races which was richly deserved.
Then on Sunday I was in Leopardstown, and Stone Age put himself firmly in the favourites position for the Epsom Derby with a great performance. Aidan [O’Brien] seems to have all the cards stacked in his favour, but Ralph Beckett’s Sandown scorer, Westover, will probably head the English challengers. Joseph and Donnacha [O’Brien] will also probably be there taking on their Dad so we should be set fair for another great renewal. After seeing the trials at Lingfield and Chester, I think the market has found the right favourite in Stone Age.
This weekend sees the three-day Killarney meeting kick off, and I want to wish our neighbours in Kerry the best of luck along with racecourse manager Philip O’Brien and his team. Everybody knows Killarney is one of the most scenic racecourses anywhere and it’s always a treat to be racing there. Even more important than that, though, is the fact it’s a great town to be out in socially, so all the best for their first meeting of the year.