PAT HEALY: This week Pat Healty reacts to the horses who impressed on Irish Guineas weekend, and pays a lovely tribute to Barney Curley.
Irish Guineas reaction
Irish Guineas weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. I mentioned a couple of weeks back about Mac Swiney and how he’d improve as the season goes on. He was very brave to stick his neck out at the line and I was made up for Rory Cleary as he bagged his first Group 1. The whole of Ireland was thrilled for him. He’s very popular in and out of the weighing room and does everything with a smile on his face. He puts a smile on everyone’s face when they are around him and he’s arguably the biggest joker and character in the weighing room. Interestingly, he rode over hurdles during the winter and follows the likes of Johnny Murtagh and Seamie Heffernan in doing it.
Jim Bolger of course needs a mention as training the 1-2 in any Classic is a superb achievement. He’s got two top-class horses now and while Poetic Flare looks a miler, you’d have to say Mac Swiney is very much a genuine Derby contender now. He took a blow at a crucial stage in the Derrinstown behind Bolshoi Ballet and providing he gets the trip, which many expect he will, then he has to be a serious candidate. I think the market has it about right with Bolshoi the rightful favourite, but there are plenty in behind, such as Mac Swiney and John Leeper, who could easily improve past Aidan’s [O’Brien] colt.
There was yet more big race success for Colin Keane in the Tattersalls Gold Cup aboard Noel Meade’s Helvic Dream. It was Noel’s first Group 1 and continues a fantastic 2021 so far which has seen him have a Cheltenham Festival winner, a Punchestown Festival winner, and now Sunday’s victory. Noel has been training 50 odd years and he’s had to reinvent himself three or four times to keep up with the times and Sunday’s win showed he’s still one of the best. He’s one of the great characters in the game and it’s fantastic to see him doing so well.
Helvic Dream’s win was Colin or ‘Baby Mick’s’ fourth Group 1 in 11 months. He’s as good as anyone in the world and he again demonstrated the class he has on Sunday. He’s got so long left in the saddle that you’d imagine he’ll break all sorts of records before he’s finished and wherever he rides around the world, owners and trainers are going to be extremely keen to get him on their horses. In Ireland we’ve known how good he is and rides like his one on Tarnawa at last year’s Breeders’ Cup have shown the other major racing jurisdictions just what he’s about and why he’s rated as highly as he is.
It was such sad news to hear of Barney Curley’s death. The outpour of positivity towards him is totally justified and he was a great man who contributed so much to horse racing as well as to so many people’s lives. The first time I ever met him was in 1988 at Cheltenham and I was totally in awe of this iconic figure. We were in the weighing room after racing at the November Meeting, he sat down on the windowsill, and I just watched him a bit starstruck. The tea lady came over to him and after taking his cup and saucer, he gave her £50 for her trouble. It was a mark of the man that he looked after people, such was his work for Direct Aid in Africa. It takes a very special person to devote your time and effort to do that for so many people.
He’ll be sorely missed.