PAT HEALY: This week Pat reflects on a cracking couple of days’ racing at Irish Champions Weekend, which saw some particularly special results for the O’Brien family.
Irish Champions Weekend
Irish Champions Weekend was once again a tremendous success and like previous years, it produced some fantastic stories. The programme is top-class and there is something for everyone with the competitive handicaps as well as the Group 1s. It’s obviously a shame it’s behind closed doors, but I would hope that those tuning in on TV as well as the media would have enjoyed it as much as those of us who were lucky enough to witness it first-hand.
To be up close for Magical’s brilliant second Irish Champion Stakes win was a real joy and to beat the highest rated horse in the world in Ghaiyyath is no mean feat. I thought Seamie Heffernan gave her a super ride and he really showed his class. He might not always get the plaudits but he’s one of the best around and that ride showed why Aidan [O’Brien] has so much faith in him. Seamie rarely gets it wrong and Saturday’s win was a perfect example of that.
It was also fantastic to see Johnny Murtagh win the Matron Stakes with Champers Elysees. Everyone in the game was thrilled to see Johnny get his first Group 1 and it’s brilliant to see him finally hit the back of the net. It’s not easy starting out as a trainer and Johnny has gradually progressed through the ranks, so it’s great that all of the hard work has paid off. He’s be the first to tell you that if he gets the firepower he’ll get the job done, and he’s proven it.
Aidan, Joseph, Donnacha and the strength of Irish trainers
For all three of the O’Briens to win a Group 1 on the same day really was quite incredible. To be around to witness something as unique as that is a real honour and it’s a day I won’t forget for a while. For Dermot Weld to then train two Group 1 winners on the same day, in France and Ireland, really shows the strength of Irish Flat trainers and I think it’s pretty fair to say they are paving the way at the moment. You could put these trainers in any country in the world and they’d have the same amount of success.
Sunday must have been a day that gave Aidan enormous pleasure. To watch your two sons win Group 1s on the same day, as well as Joseph’s win in the St Leger on Saturday, must have given him a feeling he’d never experienced before. He’s won numerous Group 1s around the world, but that will be a money-can’t-but feeling and I’m sure it will be a moment he’ll remember for a good few years to come.
Shane Foley is 10 winners clear in the jockey standings and it’s not surprising he’s at the top of the tree given how well he’s been riding recently. However, I’m sure he’ll be having a peep over his shoulder at past champion Colin Keane who seems to be getting into a decent rhythm now. The next month or so will tell us a lot and it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.