PAT HEALY: This week Pat reacts to Gordon Elliott ending Willie Mullins’ decade-long hold on the Morgiana Hurdle, and he talks up Fury Road’s prospects for the season ahead after another victory.
I was at Punchestown on Sunday to see the Morgiana Hurdle and what an exciting race it was. I’m a fan of the winner, Abacadabras, who is a proper Grade 1 horse and he showed that in the way he stuck it out. I’ve seen that some people have thought Saint Roi was a bit unlucky and maybe he was, but to my mind, the really good horses get themselves out of those unlucky situations. There’s clearly plenty more to come from him and if he is to make up into a Champion Hurdle contender, he’s certainly in the right place at Willie’s [Mullins].
Jason The Militant ran a great race too, and it will be interesting to follow all three horses through the season. As to which has the best chance come March, it’s very hard to say at this stage. Things can change so quickly in this game as we all know, but one thing’s for certain is that they are all very exciting prospects moving forward.
Abacadabras’ victory also meant that Gordon [Elliott] ended Willie’s stranglehold on the race. Prior to Sunday, Willie had won it an incredible 10 times on the trot which is a remarkable achievement for a Grade 1. We’re still very early on in the campaign, but all of these little things will make a difference in the overall battle for the trainers’ championship.
Another impressive winner on Sunday was Fury Road, who is a horse I really love. Every time he runs, it’s really worth going to watch him in the parade ring beforehand as he’s a real specimen of a horse and he walks beautifully. He’s a six-year-old now and he’s beginning to put it all together on the track. He ran a blinder in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last season behind Monkfish and Latest Exhibition which will turn out to be pretty smart form and I’m sure he’ll be a real contender in the staying hurdle division this season. He’s a name we’re going to be hearing a lot more about.
The situation that went on in the final race on Cheltenham on Saturday wasn’t ideal for anyone, but I do feel sorry for the judge as well as the racecourse. Obviously the conditions were against them and of course it would have been better to be started 10 minutes earlier, but it’s well known that the later racing during a day generates more money for bookmakers, so it’s understandable why the final race goes off up to the allowed time of 15 minutes ahead of sunset. A lot of it is dictated by the terrestrial TV schedule as well. Throw in the fact that betting revenues are down with betting shops being closed, and tracks are relying more on live streaming revenues to keep them afloat, so I don’t think anyone is to blame. It’s just one of those freak incidents which sometimes happens and I think a dead-heat was a fair result for everybody.
I like many was very happy to hear the news that Tarnawa will stay in training next season. You’d have to think Dermot [Weld] would have strongly put forward his case that she should race on next year and based on what she did this season, it’s hard to argue with him. He clearly thinks she has more to offer and it will be fascinating to see how she gets on as a five-year-old.
After she ran on Champions Day at Ascot last year, he put her away for 10 months and didn’t bring her out till August, so it will be interesting to see if he follows a similar path in 2021. The Arc is clearly the main aim and she’s got to have a huge chance, but whatever happens she’ll be a huge asset to next season’s Flat campaign.
I was at Dundalk on Monday night and I was very impressed with Siobhan Rutledge, who rode the winner of the last race. She’s attached to John McConnell’s yard and is well worth her seven-pound claim, so definitely keep an eye on her. If you see her picking up any outside rides, take notice because she’s very talented.