Things We Learned » Start of the flat

Start of the flat

The start of the Flat (on turf) creeps up on you a bit, coming, as it does these days, just over a week after the Cheltenham Festival has finished and long before you have assimilated all the implications thereof.  And before Fairyhouse, before Aintree, before Punchestown.

That said, there was a lot to be gleaned from Tote Irish Lincoln day at Naas on Sunday.  Seven races, six individual winning trainers (Ger Lyons had a double), five individual winning riders (Chris Hayes and Colin Keane both had doubles).

Pride Of Pimlico was impressive in winning the opening juveniles’ maiden.  The Brendan Duke-trained colt made just about all the running under a well-judged ride from Ronan Whelan.  He kicked from the front on the run to the furlong pole, and he kept on well all the way to the line to spring a 20/1 shock, with another 20/1 shot Engles Rock running on well to take second place and complete a 370/1 exacta.

It was good to see Medicine Jack back with a win in the six-furlong handicap.  Winner of the Group 2 Railway Stakes two years ago as a juvenile, Sean Jones’ horse raced just once last year as a three-year-old, he finished fifth behind Harry Angel in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock at the end of May.

Gelded in the interim and dropped to a handicap rating of 94, the Ger Lyons-trained gelding was a little free through the very early stages of Sunday’s race, but he was quickly into a nice racing rhythm for Colin Keane in the front rank.  He travelled well to the two-furlong pole, and he battled back well after he had been headed on the far side by Gymkhana – who was a stable companion of the winner when he won the same race last year – to get up and win by a head from Smash Williams, himself a Group 3 winner as a juvenile, who also finished well.

The handicapper has raised Medicine Jack by just 4lb for that win to a mark of 98, which is 10lb lower than his peak rating as a juvenile.  He would be interesting in a valuable handicap now off that mark, that mark could still under-rate him, and he could make his mark in Pattern company.

Making Light only got home by a half a length under Leigh Roche in the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud Park Express Stakes, but the Dermot Weld-trained filly travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out and she probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin. 

On The Go Again came under pressure in the Tote Irish Lincolnshire earlier than several of his rivals, but the Mulvanys’ horse (owned and bred by Larry, trained by the owner’s son Michael, led up by the owner’s grandson Larry) stayed on strongly for Gary Carroll to win well in a race that could throw up a few future winners.

It is a race and a day that could be well worth reviewing a couple of times.

Klairon Davis remembered

Memories of Klairon Davis?  The 1995 Arkle for starters, when he stayed on strongly up the run-in under the whipless Franny Woods to get home by a half a length from Sound Man in an Irish 1-2.  The Arthur Moore-trained gelding was one of just four Irish-trained winners at Cheltenham that year. 

The 1996 Champion Chase, when Sound Man and Viking Flagship went toe-to-toe from the top of the hill.  It looked like Klairon Davis, who had arrived there on the back of a less than ideal preparation, was beaten when he made a bad mistake at the ditch at the top of the hill, and the front pair moved away from him on the run down the hill.  But Chris Jones’ horse kept in touch as they raced to the home turn and, taken to the outside by Woods on the run to the last, jumped that obstacle upsides and stayed on best of all up the hill.

There was the BMW Handicap Chase at Punchestown six weeks later, when he had to give 4lb to Sound Man but still beat him by 10 lengths.  And there was the same BMW Handicap Chase back at Punchestown 12 months later, when he gave 17lb to all his rivals, good horses like Arctic Kinsman and Big Matt and Idiot’s Venture and Lord Dorcet and Opera Hat, and beat them easily. 

Expertly managed by Arthur Moore, Chris Jones’ horse went six for six as a novice hurdler – he was only beaten once over hurdles – and he won 13 times over fences and finished in the first three 29 times.  He leaves some legacy.

Whip rules 

The profile of the whip has been raised above shoulder height again of late.  Everybody with a keyboard and a screen and a 56k modem appears to have had his or her say.  It’s an emotive issue.  But the day that we allow policy in any walk of life to be governed by the perception of the peripheral masses, instead of endeavouring to educate said peripheral masses on the reality, which is probably at odds with their perception, is a sad day.

Final thoughts on Cheltenham

Some final thoughts on Cheltenham before you file it away in the archives. The quality of the run that Road To Respect put up in the Gold Cup, on ground that was softer than ideal, appears to have gone largely under the radar.  Gigginstown House and Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan were unlucky that the ground came up unusually soft for Gold Cup day. 

It was a double-whammy.  Not only is the Gamut gelding at his best on better ground anyway, but the ease in the ground placed an emphasis on his stamina, which was unproven over an extended three and a quarter miles.

Even so, he was trained to perfection by Meade and he was given a superb ride by Flanagan, around the inside with space at his fences and in a lovely racing rhythm.  On better ground, you just never know how it would have panned out.

The ground was softer than ideal too for Paloma Blue, and he was keen enough through the early stages of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, so he did well to get as close as he did.  He could step up significantly on this run when he gets better ground at Punchestown or Aintree.

Shantou Flyer could have won the Ultima Handicap Chase if he had jumped the final fence better than he did.  Balko Des Flos could be even better than he was in the Ryanair Chase when he gets back on better ground. 

There could still be more to come from Close Brothers Chase winner Mister Whitaker.  He is only six and that was just his fifth chase.  And Benatar did really well to finish third in the JLT Chase after racing as keenly as he did through the early stages of the race.  That was his first run since December, and he should settle better next time when he is not as fresh.

And on the prospect of five days – a notion that, worryingly, appears to be gaining irresistible traction – once again, please don’t do it.

Thoughts and prayers

Thoughts and prayers are with Pat Smullen and Frances Crowley and their family.  The whole country appears to be united in wishing the nine-time champion jockey a speedy recovery.

© The Irish Field, 31st March 2018