Things We Learned » Joytown case

Joytown case

There were several meritorious performances in last Sunday’s Troytown Chase at Navan.

The winner Groody Hill doesn’t need a great deal of explaining.  JP McManus’s horse is only five, he came into the race having won his previous two races over two and a half miles, and he has huge scope for progression.  He did have his stamina to prove before Sunday – he had never been beyond two and a half miles in his life – but he did so quite emphatically, staying on strongly and willingly up the run-in under a strong ride from Alan Crowe, having looked booked for third place at very best jumping the second last.

An 8lb hike is not unreasonable, even though he only won by a half a length and even though it leaves him on a mark of 132, 27lb higher than the mark off which he won a handicap chase at Punchestown just six weeks ago.  The Christy Roche-trained gelding is progressive anyway, but the step up in trip probably brought about even further improvement.  The Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas is an obvious next port of call, and he could prove to be even better than a handicapper.

If moral winners of races were paid, then Ad Idem would have collected.  He travelled like the most likely (real) winner for a long way, and appeared to have the race in the bag when his only realistic rival, Cross Appeal, stumbled on landing over the last.  As it turned out, Cross Appeal’s falter may have been the losing of the race for both of them, because Pauline Gavin’s gelding appeared to idle on the run-in once left in front on his own, opening the door for Groody Hill, and there was nothing that Brian Hayes could do to close it.

Hayes’s valuable 7lb claim had reduced Ad Idem’s burden to 10st 13lb, but it was still a fine performance even under his reduced weight, given how highly-favoured the lightweights are in the race, given that only one horse had carried more than 10st 7lb to victory in the Troytown in the previous 10 renewals, and that was Notre Pere, who went and won the Welsh National on his next start off a 14lb higher mark.

It may seem like Ad Idem has been around for ages, but he is still only seven, this was just his seventh run over fences, and a 5lb hike should not be sufficient to prevent him landing a decent prize now.

Prince De Beauchene was another who put in a noteworthy performance to finish fifth under top weight on his debut for Willie Mullins.  He is a classy recruit from Howard Johnson, he should come on for this run, and he will be of interest if he takes up his entry in the Welsh National.

JP Dozen

Groody Hill’s win was the highlight of a fine few days for owner JP McManus.  The Troytown winner was one of three winners that carried the famous green and gold hoops at Navan on Sunday, the treble becoming a quadruple on the day with Baby Whizz’s victory in the two-mile handicap hurdle at Wexford.  This was preceded by two winners from four runners for the owner in the UK last Friday, and four winners at three different tracks on Saturday, and followed by a double at Folkestone on Monday.  Interestingly, McManus’s 12 winners over the four days represented six different trainers, which emphasises once again both the depth and the breadth of the owner’s support for National Hunt racing.

Davy Russell’s Locker

McManus’s main rival for the owners’ title, Gigginstown House, are also disciples of the divide and conquer strategy, with their five-strong entry in tomorrow’s Drinmore Chase at the five-day stage representing four different trainers.  When Gigginstown House’s rider Davy Russell asked last Christmas for a few good novice chasers to ride this season, he could never have dreamt that Santa Claus would fill his locker as generously as he did, and he could never have thought that most of them would end up in the same race.  First Lieutenant, Bog Warrior or Last Instalment?  That’s like choosing between a Flicker Scooter, a Nintendo 3DS and a snooker table.  And no, you can’t have all three.  (Do you think Santa Claus is made of money?)

Cap fits

And speaking of owners and colours, how is it that, when an owner is multiply-represented in a race, you still have to wait until you get to the races to find out what colour cap each rider will wear?  You could probably guess that Davy Russell will wear the maroon cap with the white star, but who will wear the white cap, who will wear the black cap, and is there a blue cap?  And will there be enough different coloured caps to go around?  In the UK, they have sufficient advance warning to enable them print the different caps’ colours in the newspapers and in the racecards.  Surely it isn’t that difficult an administrative tweak.

Common sense rules

Changes to the programme at Dundalk to allow for divisions, and to the fixture list to accommodate the unusual 2012 dates for the All Ireland Hurling and Football finals – we won’t be able to speak wistfully of the third Sunday in September any more – were triumphs for common sense. We all appear to be getting a little more flexible, which is no bad thing.

© The Irish Field, 3rd December 2011