PAT HEALY: In his latest blog Pat reflects on the bumper Festive racing schedule, cheered on by massive crowds at the Irish tracks.
Credit to our racecourses
Huge congratulations to Tim Husbands and his team at Leopardstown. There’s been brilliant racing all week and fantastic crowds.
On Saint Stephen’s Day there were loads of young people and it was also fantastic to see massive crowds at Limerick and Down Royal too.
Obviously, Leopardstown is the highlight and is one of the flagship fixtures in the calendar. When you go racing everyday, you like to see the flagship fixtures looking well and painting the best picture possible of Irish racing and that’s how it’s been at Leopardstown, as well as Limerick and Down Royal over the Christmas period. At all three tracks the effort and the hard work has been rewarded with fantastic racing and crowds.
Mullins and Elliott domination
On the track, the racing has been dominated by Willie [Mullins] and Gordon [Elliott]. Willie had a fabulous six-timer on the Tuesday and he also bagged a winner at Limerick on the same day. Having seven winners in a day just goes to show the power of the Closutton juggernaut.
It’s a fantastic feat. The logistics that goes into the Mullins and Elliott operations, with staff and travel are huge and hugely important. Both stables have fantastic teams behind them.
Willie even complemented his travelling head lad Ben Delmar on getting the right number cloths on his eight runners in the Paddy Power as a feat in itself!
It was Gordon’s turn to stand in the spotlight on Wednesday, with Conflated winning the Savills (pictured below), bringing up a treble on the day for him and Jack Kennedy.
Conflated was impressive, and he won well. While Jack is craving every winner he can get at the moment to keep ahead of Paul Townend in the jockeys’ championship, it’s the big wins that really matter to these boys that ride day-in day-out.
Big race success for Eric and Conor McNamara
Eric McNamara and his son Conor were the only other winners on the Tuesday at Leopardstown, when Willie had six of the seven. For Eric and Conor to go and win the Paddy Power Chase with Real Steel was a fantastic result. It was just his third winner of the season, so when you think about it in comparison to something like the Mullins’ operation, it was a hugely popular success.
Eric is such a popular person in the game. Emmet is his other son, who of course rode the winner of the Epsom Derby on Serpentine in 2020. His daughter Kate is a big cog in the wheel at home. He takes great pride in all his children, so it fantastic that he and Conor teamed up for such a big success.
Remembering Jack de Bromhead
When you think about it, poor Jack has only been gone a few months. It was an emotional day on Wednesday for Henry and Heather and their daughters Mia and Georgia, and they were supported by scores of friends, family and racegoers. Henry’s good friend Brian Acheson, of Robcour, sponsored the Christmas Hurdle, which was run in Jack’s memory.
We’re all thinking of Jack and of the De Bromheads over this Christmas period.
Festive racing wrap up
There have been so many top-class performances and with so much racing it’s hard to keep an eye on everything.
Facile Vega and Dysart Dynamo were awesome on the Tuesday. And of course, there was Blue Lord, who was very impressive too.
Home By The Lee has stamped himself as a major contender for the Stayers’ crown after his win on Wednesday.
State Man was an impressive winner of the Matheson Hurdle, giving his owners Joe and Marie Donnelly a quick Grade 1 double after Galliard Du Mesnil’s win in the earlier novice chase. State Man has now thrown his hat into the ring for the Champion Hurdle, alongside Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill.
Over at Kempton, Bravemansgame was a good winner of the King George and has to be considered a Gold Cup contender.
Then there was Constitution Hill. Will he come to Leopardstown in February for the Irish Champion Hurdle? Imagine if he did…I think you’d have to be camped outside the gate like they do in Japan and Hong Kong in order to get in!
It probably won’t happen – reading between the lines Nicky Henderson wants to go straight to Cheltenham – so we may have to wait for the match there come March.
I met Warren Ewing, who sold Constitution Hill, on Wednesday. Warren thinks that Constitution Hill will win the Champion Hurdle this year and then will go over fences next season. In Warren’s mind he could do what Dawn Run did, win the Champion Hurdle and go on to win the Gold Cup. That would be huge for racing.
Until next week.