PAT HEALY: This week Pat makes his pick for the Aintree Grand National and reflects on what he saw at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.
Aintree Grand National
It’s so good to be back at Aintree for the Grand National meeting where the action off the track can be as good as the action on it. It’s always a pleasure coming here but you appreciate it a whole deal more when we have missed it for the past two years. The best part for me is that it falls just three weeks after Cheltenham, so it creeps up on you out of nowhere, but that’s not to say that the quality is diluted. Of course, I’ll be searching for an Irish winner in the big race, and I genuinely think we will have one again, for me, my few quid will be going on Longhouse Poet for Martin Brassil who has won it before with Numbersixvalverde back in 2006. But, like I said I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the Irish raiders claimed the prize, particularly given Gordon’s [Elliott] strong hand and Willie’s [Mullins] too with Burrows Saint who was fourth last year and now Paul Townend takes the ride. It’ll be a fantastic occasion as always, and it really is the race that people around the world stop and take note of. With last year’s fantastic result of Rachael [Blackmore] becoming the first lady rider to win, but with no crowds, I wish her all the best in the hope she can do the same with her adoring fans there to witness it.
Fairyhouse and Leopardstown
Last weekend I was at Fairyhouse where it was great to see Michael Hourigan who looks to have a very decent horse on his hands with Dorans Weir who took home the bumper. Mike has been training for 60 odd years and of course his flagship horses were Dorans Pride and Beef Or Salmon, so hopefully Dorans Weir can be another one for him. He’s down to about a dozen horses in training but trust me there is no harder working man in the game than him, he does a lot of the work around the yard himself and this horse is bred by owner Tom Doran so I hope there are big days ahead for all involved.I was also at Leopardstown for the Guineas trials, where Ger Lyons won the 2000 trial with Dr Zempf, but it was the 1000 Guineas trial winner – Homeless Songs – that impressed me most. Trained by Dermot Weld, I thought she looked very smart in her performance, and beat another very smart filly in Joseph O’Brien’s, Agartha. She’s by Frankel and Dermot has her entered in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas so it’ll be interesting to see which one he aims her at. The Derby trial was won by Donnacha O’Brien with Piz Badile by a short head from his brother Joseph [O’Brien] who saddled Buckaroo. They finished about three-and-a-half lengths ahead of the field and looked quite smart, so they are probably two colts to follow for the O’Brien brothers.
We lost a huge character in Listowel this week with the passing of Nora Canty of The Shebeen Bar. Old Stock of the town she was deadly craic, and you could write a book with “Nora” stories from the pub. My favourite though, is the time Frankie Dettori came to ride in the now closed, and much missed, Tralee Racecourse back in 1998. Frankie rode a winner aboard Allotrope for owner Sheikh Mohammed and trainer John Oxx, and with security being so tight nobody was getting into the winner’s enclosure, or so they thought! As soon as the security man put his hand out to stop Nora from entering the enclosure, she brushed it aside with the immortal words, “Do you not know who I am?!” and proceeded to lead Allotrop and Frankie in for His Highness. We will miss her, and may she Rest in Peace.