PAT HEALY: In his latest blog Pat reflects on a first defeat for the remarkable Honeysuckle and Jack Kennedy’s claims on his first championship …..


When Honeysuckle turned into the straight at Fairyhouse, there was a roar that went up from the enclosures and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It was a real moment to savour.

Contrast that with when she went by the post in third place, the silence was like a blanket thrown over the racecourse. For 10 or 15 seconds people took it all in and realised that Honeysuckle had been beaten. It’s a long, long time since I’ve experienced anything like that.

The official going on the day was soft, but it’s peculiar ground at Fairyhouse. Fairyhouse ‘soft’ would be heavy at a lot of other tracks and it takes some getting.

I actually think, for her first run of the season, Honeysuckle ran a blinder. Rachael [Blackmore] minded her, she wasn’t going to give her a hard race first time out. She got beat, but to my eyes she wasn’t disgraced. Connections have plenty to look forward to, as she’s a better mare in the spring. Ultimately, she came home safe, and that’s the main thing. Hopefully we will see her back firing on all cylinders in the spring.

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We can’t take anything away from the winner, Teahupoo. The fact that he won tells you all you need to know about the ground, as he loves it heavy and is a Grade One horse in those ground conditions.

He runs under the Robcour colours for owner Brian Acheson. Brian got the name Robcour from his two children, Robert and Courtney. No man deserves a Grade One as much as Brian – he puts an awful lot into the game and at the minute has over 50 horses in training.

Brian is actually a great friend of Henry de Bromhead and has horses in training at Knockeen. He was as stunned as anyone that his horse was the one to go and beat Honeysuckle.

Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy

Gordon took over the meeting at Fairyhouse and had seven winners over the two days. That made it 29 winners in three weeks, so he’s absolutely flying. As ever though, he was quick to give praise to his staff and his owners.

Under his own admission Gordon has said he’s tweaked a few things this season because he felt the stable was running on empty going to the final few weeks of the last couple of seasons. Currently he leads Willie [Mullins] in the trainers championship and it will be interesting to see where they are lying in the run up to the Punchestown Festival in April.

Of course, we have to touch on Jack Kennedy (pictured below). Jack is having his best ever season, after reaching the 70-winner mark at Tramore on Tuesday. He’s a joy to watch on horse-back. If you want to show any young fella who is interested in being a jockey something at the minute, play them the tape of Mighty Potter going round over fences at Fairyhouse the other day. They’ll see Jack standing on his back, reins dropped, hands on the horse’s withers – it was a joy to watch.

Please God he stays in one piece. He’s 30 winners ahead of Paul Townend at the minute and who’s to say, if Jack gets the rub of the green, that he won’t be collecting his first championship next April.

Facile Vega

Facile Vega’s reappearance was awesome. The thing that struck me with him was photographing him going to the start. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse canter to the start like Facile Vega, watch him next time – the way he grabs the ground. He grabs the ground with his huge, long stride.

He never came out of second gear at Fairyhouse. Willie Mullins has made no secret of his admiration for this horse and I can’t wait see him going forward this season.

We’re luck at the moment to have so many superstars to watch.

A first Grade One success for Michael O’Sullivan

Michael was as cool as a breeze on Marine Nationale when winning his first Grade One in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Marine Nationale is obviously a high-class horse and he’s entitled to go for the Supreme. That’s the road Barry Connell, his owner-trainer, wants to go.

It was only Michael’s eighth winner of the season. We’re obviously all delighted for Michael, he’s a lovely kid and we wish him all the best going forward.

One for the notebook

Ideal Des Bordes, a four-year-old by Coastal Path, won a maiden at Quakerstown Point-to-Point last Sunday. He was entered for the Champions sale at Cheltenham this Friday night, but he’s been withdrawn and I believe he’s been sold to the Nicky Henderson stable.

Obviously, we don’t know what he was sold for, but the fact he was taken out of the sale gives you the feeling this horse was sold for a lot of money. He’s one to watch out for.

Until next week.

DAQMAN Weds: Kempton NAP
DAQSTATS Weds: Kempton NAP
THE STRIKER Weds: Sunderland v Fulham (FA Cup)
THE EDGE Thurs: India v Australia 1st Test
PAT HEALY blog: The Perfect Festival!
THE WEEK AHEAD: Super Bowl week !!
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