PAT HEALY: This week Pat shares his excitement for Ascot this Saturday and reflects on an impressive outing at Fairyhouse for Saint Sam

Shishkin v Energumene

It’s hard not to be excited by the clash between Shishkin and Energumene on Saturday at Ascot. You’d love to own either horse and both being eight-year-olds there’s plenty of scope for further improvement. Both are trained by geniuses and while I’m sure it’s going to be a brilliant race, Cheltenham is the one both Nicky [Henderson] and Willie [Mullins] will be truly focusing on. Hopefully they can put on a show at Ascot and then the real spectacle will come in March.

I have utmost respect for Shishkin and I’m a real fan of the horse, but if I had to own one, I’d just favour Energumene. There’s something about him that just takes your eye out, he has the potential to be a real star and he could easily be the one who gives Willie a first Champion Chase. It’s very special we’ve got two such exciting horses taking each other on at this stage of the season and I, like many, can’t wait for it.

Saint Sam

I was very impressed with Saint Sam at Fairyhouse and he’s one of those classic horses that seems to have really come into his own now he’s gone over fences. That’s not to say he wasn’t a talented hurdler, but he looked a real natural over the larger obstacles and I must admit to having had a few quid on him each-way for the Turners at Cheltenham.

I was by the second fence and Saint Sam was fully a dozen lengths clear at that stage with a group of horses chasing him, one of whom was ridden by Sean Flanagan. He was shouting at James Sullivan “Have you got a phone on you? If so, ring Townend and tell him to slow down!” In short, the race was over by the second fence and for a jockey like Sean to know that so early on must mean Saint Sam was putting in an exceptional performance. The horse went by the line hard held and Paul [Townend] had a real job on his hands to pull him up, and so he looks a real nice type going forward.

As mentioned, I’ve had a few bob on him for the Turners and while the Arkle looks a potential option too I just feel the longer trip might suit better. Make no mistake, to win an Arkle you need to stay further than two miles because they go so fast and there really isn’t any hiding place. I just think for an Arkle you might need a bit more experience than Saint Sam has and so the Turners might just be the one they go for. I’m hoping so anyway!

Turtulla Point-to-Point

I was down at Turtulla on Sunday and the one thing that really struck me there was the number of female jockeys riding on the card. There wasn’t a ladies race on the day and yet 12 female pilots were in action, while at Killeagh there were six lady jockeys riding. To add to that, the day before at Aghabullogue there were three lady riders and I just wonder if this all stems from Rachael Blackmore and the success she’s had. I don’t remember a Point-to-Point where so many girls were competing and it’s a really good sign for the sport that so many are getting the leg up.

And on the subject of female riders, I just wanted to wish young Ciara Flynn a happy 21st birthday, who rode her second win under rules when steering home Power Drive for her father Paul. I wish her all the best going forward.