PAT HEALY: A busy Christmas period has given Brand Ambassador Pat Healy plenty to discuss, including an impressive run from Ginto, one of Pat’s horses to watch this season, and his thoughts on Al Boum Photo’s return.
As I mentioned a couple of times last year, I like many were really looking forward to seeing Ginto at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The two-mile trip is probably a bit short for him in a bumper, but I’m sure there are bigger and better days to come over hurdles as he’s a gorgeous animal and one to keep a close eye on. Saying that, you can’t take anything away from the winner. He looked a real specimen in the parade ring beforehand and Willie Mullins clearly knew what he had in Whatdeawant. He looked a potential superstar in the way he beat Ginto and he’s another with bags of potential moving forward.
Both horses once again show the bumper crop in Ireland this year is very strong and we’ve got some real top-class maiden and novice hurdlers to look forward to next season. Ginto was bought for £470,000 out of the point-to-point game, whereas Whatdeawant was bought for a much smaller sum of £62,000 at the Derby Sale. It just shows that because you buy the dearest product on the shelf, it doesn’t mean you will get by the winning post first.
When you consider Reality Cheque was going to win his bumper before unfortunately breaking a leg in the straight, Willie would have had 17 winners at Leopardstown. Considering there are 28 races at the meeting, to have won as many as he did shows the Mullins juggernaut is very much alive and kicking this season. Willie obviously has his own strategy of doing things now and as we know he tends to start off slowly.
Each year he has his summer team of horses because the prize money at the big summer festivals is top class and deserves to be targeted, but his winter horses don’t tend to appear until Clonmel Oil Chase Day around mid-November. In the last few years, he tips away from now until the Dublin Racing Festival where the Grade 1’s are targeted and then, of course, it’s all guns blazing to Cheltenham, Fairyhouse and Punchestown. Willie has passed Gordon now in the prize money stakes to the tune of 64k. When you think a couple of years ago that Gordon went into Punchestown the guts of a million ahead of Willie and Willie ended up on top, it seems as if it’s the back end of the season that counts for Willie.
Al Boum Photo
Al Boum Photo, for me, didn’t disappoint. I know many thought what he did at Tramore on New Year’s Day was a bit workmanlike, but I was on the track and the ground was very holding and took plenty of getting through, which can’t have made his life straightforward. I just think that you are looking at a horse who in going for his third Gold Cup in a row just might have been taking it easy with himself. He’s the ultimate professional and Paul [Townend] isn’t going to give him a hard race if he doesn’t have to. I think the horse enjoyed himself and Paul let him enjoy himself. I don’t imagine Willie will run him again before Cheltenham and I think he will give him another racecourse gallop ahead of the big day in March.
For me, he is still the one they have to beat in the Gold Cup.
Grade 1 winners
Jonathan Moore and Darragh O’Keeffe won their first Grade 1s over the festive period which was fantastic to see. Jonathan is a very polite young man who is always smiling and I’m sure he’s delighted to get that first Grade 1. He’s a hard-working man who keeps his head down and he’s got a great boss to work for in BETDAQ ambassador Gavin Cromwell. Flooring Porter was superb at Leopardstown and you’d have to think both Jonathan and Gavin have a more than live Stayers’ Hurdle contender now.
We’ll definitely hear more of him the future as we will with Darragh, who rode A Plus Tard to win the Savills Chase. Darragh was obviously given instructions on how to ride the race and he never got ruffled by what Patrick and David Mullins were doing on Melon and Kemboy out in front. He kept riding his race and produced A Plus Tard perfectly with just 10 yards to go before the line and he deserves great credit for sticking to his own plan. It was a great performance and now opens the Gold Cup door for Henry De Bromhead with A Plus Tard over 3m2f. He has now announced himself a leading contender for the showpiece in March.
I think between England and Ireland, the Irish jockey colony is always the hardest to break into. If you are in the top 10 in Ireland, you’ll make a living anywhere. It’s so competitive and so hard to break into you don’t get into the top 10 in Ireland by fluke. You must work hard, have the talent and have a brain. No disrespect to those in England but the top jockeys may only cross swords once a week more often at a big Saturday meeting. You have the northern circuit, the midlands circuit and the southern circuit over there so the best jockeys in England can easily not cross paths for most of the week. In Ireland, the top jockeys are taking each other on daily and that means that those at the top have every right to be there.