PAT HEALY: This week Pat looks back on the success stories of the Punchestown Festival, and congratulates all involved with Poetic Flare’s 200 Guineas win.
Remainder of Punchestown
The final three days of Punchestown followed a very similar theme to the first two with Willie Mullins dominating again. He won 19 of the 40 races, which is impressive in itself, but it’s perhaps even more impressive that he didn’t have any runners in eight of them, so he won well over half of the races he had runners in. It really was an astonishing festival and he seems to have virtually made Punchestown his second home now.
He’s clearly very dominant at the moment, but it’s not like he’s the only one. Henry [de Bromhead] obviously had an amazing week at Cheltenham, while Cullentra have had a fantastic season and so have Noel Meade, Jessica Harrington and Joseph O’Brien, so it’s not like he’s had it all his own way. All of the top trainers are having a great time of it and in any other era they’d be dominating, but Willie just continually raises the bar. He’s won over five-and-a-half million in prize money and who knows if we’ll see that bettered, although with Willie you never know!
It was another fantastic festival and it was of course brilliant to see Honeysuckle making 12 in a row in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. It’s never easy to back it up after running at Cheltenham, but she got the job done and she looks like she’ll be very hard to beat moving forward. She’s very much in that top bracket of mares now and is more deserving to be talked about alongside the likes of Annie Power and Dawn Run. The decision connections now have to make is whether she’ll stay over hurdles or go chasing. It’s well-known that she loose schools over fences at Henry’s and by all accounts she’s been superb over the larger obstacles, so it would be no surprise if they did go that route. It’s a really hard decision and she’s obviously a very valuable commodity now, but I don’t think anyone would begrudge her connections if they went for the Champion Hurdle again.
A big congratulations to Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning for their success with Poetic Flare in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Everyone knows Jim is a self-made man and most people would expect him to have taken his foot of the peddle at his stage in life, but he still runs three operations and is going great guns despite his advancing years. He employs 100 people and based on his win over the weekend, his operation is in a very good shape.
He wasn’t shy in saying that he thought he’d win the Guineas with either Poetic Flare or Mac Swiney and fair play to him as he got it absolutely spot on! He’s gone on record as saying Poetic Flare is the best he’s trained which is some statement given his sire, Dawn Approach, was a Guineas winner and also won at Royal Ascot. He’s had some other top-class horses, so you’ve got to think Poetic Flare is a pretty special one.
As for Kevin, well it’s brilliant to see him getting the job done at 54 years of age. It’s a real testament to his physical fitness to be doing what he’s doing at his age. Whether it’s at Dundalk on a Friday night or Irish Derby weekend he always takes a moment to say hello and he’s one of the great guys in the game. I hear on the ground he is a great man to the youngsters in the weighing room and when you think a lot of them wouldn’t have been born when Kevin rode his 1st winner, back in 1983, he has seen a few generations come and go. His mental attitude to keep going year in year out is a credit to him and of course he is also a busy man with his Boherguy Stud which is run by his daughter Claire and wife Una. Keep up the great work Kevin!